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Title: The Dramatic Works of John Dryden, Volume 1 - With a Life of the Author
Author: Scott, Walter, Sir, 1771-1832
Language: English
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_VOL. I._



[Illustration: _M' John Dryden._]





The best-edited book in the English language is, according to Southey,
Wilkin's edition of Sir Thomas Browne. If Sir Walter Scott's "Dryden"
cannot challenge this highest position, it certainly deserves the credit
of being one of the best-edited books on a great scale in English, save
in one particular,--the revision of the text. In reading it long ago,
with no other object than to make acquaintance with Dryden; again, more
recently and more minutely, for the purpose of a course of lectures
which I was asked to deliver at the Royal Institution; and
again, more recently and more minutely still, for the purposes of a
monograph on the same subject in Mr. Morley's series of _English
Men of Letters_, I have had tolerably ample opportunities of
recognising its merits. It was therefore with pleasure that I found,
on being consulted by the publisher of these volumes as to a re-issue of
it, that Mr. Paterson was as averse as I was myself to any attempt to
efface or to mutilate Scott's work. Neither the number, the order, nor
the contents of Scott's eighteen volumes will be altered in any way. The
task which I propose to myself is a sufficiently modest one, that of
re-editing Scott's "Dryden," as--putting differences of ability out of
question--he might have re-edited it himself had he been alive to-day;
that is to say, to set right errors into which he fell either by
inadvertence or deficiency of information, to correct the text in
accordance with modern requirements, and to add the results of the
students of Dryden during the last three quarters of a century in matter
of text as well as of comment.

The first part of the plan requires no further remarks, and the last not
much. No literary work of Dryden's of any great importance has been
discovered since Scott's edition appeared. A few letters will have to be
added, though I am sorry to say that I cannot promise my readers the
satisfaction which Dryden students chiefly desire,--the satisfaction of
reading, or at least knowing the contents of, the Knole correspondence.
In reply to a request of mine, Lord Sackville has positively, though
very courteously, refused to lift the embargo which his predecessors
have placed on this, nor have my inquiries succeeded as yet in
discovering any hitherto unpublished letters, though the present
collection will for the first time present those which have been
published in a complete form. I think that it may not be uninteresting
for readers to have an opportunity of comparing with the undoubted work
two plays, "The Mistaken Husband," and "The Modish Lovers," which good
authorities have suspected to be possibly Dryden's. These will
accordingly be given in the last volume of the plays. A bibliography of
Dryden, and writers on Dryden, and a certain number of _pieces
justificatives_ of various kinds, will also be added, as well as
notes, and where the subject seems to demand them, appendices on points
of importance. These additional notes and appendices will be bracketed
and signed ED., Dryden's own notes, which are rare, will be indicated by
a D., and Scott's will stand without indication.

The principles upon which I have proceeded in re-editing the text
require somewhat fuller explanation. Dryden never superintended any
complete edition of his works, but on the other hand there is evidence
in his letters that he bestowed considerable pains on them when they
first passed through the press. The first editions have therefore in
every case been followed, though they have been corrected in case of
need by the later ones. But the adoption of this standard leaves
unsettled the problem of orthography, punctuation, etc. I have adopted a
solution of this which will not, I fear, be wholly agreeable to some of
my friends. Capital letters, apostrophes, and the like, will be looked
for in vain. It would, I need hardly say, have been much less trouble to
put copies of the original editions into the hands of the printers, to
bid them "follow copy," and to content myself with seeing that the
reprint was faithful. The result would have been, to a very small number
of professed students of English literature, an interesting example of
the changes which printers' spelling underwent in the last forty years
of the seventeenth century. But it would have been a nuisance and a
stumbling-block to the ordinary reader, in whose way it is certainly not
the business of the editor of a great English classic to throw stones of
offence. Where a writer has written in a distinctly archaic form of
language, as in the case of all English writers before the Renaissance,
adherence to the original orthography is necessary and right. Even in
the so-called Elizabethan age, where a certain archaism of phrase
survives, the appreciation of temporal and local colour may be helped by
such an adherence. But Dryden is in every sense a modern. His list of
obsolete words is insignificant, of archaic phrases more insignificant
still, of obsolete constructions almost a blank. If any journalist or
reviewer were to write his to-morrow's leader or his next week's article
in a style absolutely modelled on Dryden, no one would notice anything
strange in it, except perhaps that the English was a good deal better
than usual There can therefore be no possible reason for erecting an
artificial barrier between him and his readers of to-day, especially as
that barrier would be not only artificial but entirely arbitrary. I
shall however return to this point in some prefatory remarks to the

Another problem which presented itself was the question of retaining the
irregular stichometric division in some plays and passages which are not
in verse. Scott has in such case generally printed them in prose, and
with some hesitation I have, though not uniformly, followed him.

I have already received much help from divers persons, and I trust,
_dis faventibus_, to acknowledge this and more at the end of my
journey, in (to use a word for which a great writer of French fought
hard) a "postface." In a work of magnitude such as the present, which
can only be proceeded with _pedetentim_, the proverb about the
relations of beginner and finisher is peculiarly applicable. For the
present I shall confine myself to mentioning with the utmost
thankfulness the kindness of Mr. E.W. Gosse, who has placed at my
disposal an almost complete set of first editions of the plays and
poems. One word must be said as to the Life which fills this first
volume. Except in minor details, there is little to add to it. Any
biographer of Dryden who is not carried away by the desire to magnify
his office, must admit that Johnson's opening sentence as to the paucity
of materials is still applicable.

In conclusion, I have but to repeat that in this edition it is not my
ambition to put myself or my own writing forward, even to the extent
ordinarily possible to an editor. In particular, my plan excludes
indulgence in critical disquisitions, however tempting they may be. For
such I must refer my readers to the monograph already mentioned.
Occasionally where critical opinions of Scott's are advanced which seem
demonstrably erroneous or imperfect, something of this nature will be
found, but on the whole my object is to give the reader my author, and
not what I have to say about him. The office of [Greek: neokoros] is a
comparatively humble one in itself, but it is honourable enough when the
shrine is at once the work and the monument of two such masters of
English as Scott and Dryden.


LONDON, _July 8_, 1882.


[_Prefaced to Edition issued in_ 1808, _edited by Sir Walter

After the lapse of more than a century since the author's death, the
Works of Dryden are now, for the first time, presented to the public in
a complete and uniform edition. In collecting the pieces of one of our
most eminent English classics,--one who may claim at least the third
place in that honoured list, and who has given proofs of greater
versatility of talent than either Shakespeare or Milton, though justly
placed inferior to them in their peculiar provinces,--the Editor did not
feel himself entitled to reject any part of his writings; even of those
which reflect little honour on the age, by whose taste they were
dictated. Had a selection been permitted, he would have excluded several
of the Comedies, and some part of the Translations: but this is a
liberty which has not lately been indulged to editors of classical
poetry. Literary history is an important step in that of man himself;
and the unseductive coarseness of Dryden is rather a beacon than a

In commencing this task, the Editor had hopes of friendly assistance,
which might have rendered his toil more easy, and the result more
accurate. Deprived of this by a concurrence of unlucky circumstances, he
has both to dread the imperfection of his labours, and the consequence
of perhaps an over-zeal to render his edition complete. In the first
respect, although he has many thanks to return for information readily
afforded, it has sometimes been received after the irrevocable
operations of the printer had taken place.[1] On the second point, he
may have been too lavish in historical notes, and entered too deeply
into the secret history of the persons and times to which Dryden's
satirical poems refer. But he has endeavoured to avail himself of all
information, so soon as communicated, whether corrective or
corroborative of his prior opinions; and the wish, not only to render
intelligible, blanks, allusions, and feigned names, but to present, if
possible, the very spirit and political character of Dryden's
contemporaries, must be the excuse for intruding a few pages of
political history and personal anecdote; which, after all, they, whose
memory does not require such refreshment, may easily dispense with
reading. In this last part of his task, the Editor has been greatly
assisted by free access to a valuable collection of the fugitive pieces
of the reigns of Charles II., James II., William III., and Queen Anne.
This curious collection was made by Narcissus Luttrell, Esq., under
whose name the Editor usually quotes it The industrious collector seems
to have bought every poetical tract, of whatever merit, which was hawked
through the streets in his time, marking carefully the price and date of
the purchase. His collection contains the earliest editions of many of
our most excellent poems, bound up, according to the order of time, with
the lowest trash of Grub Street. It was dispersed on Mr. Luttrell's
death; but a number of the volumes, referring chiefly to the latter part
of Charles the Second's reign, have fortunately become the property of
Mr. James Bindley of Somerset Place, who, with the utmost urbanity,
permitted the Editor the unlimited use of these, and other literary
curiosities in his valuable library.--It is so much a matter of course,
with every adventurer in the field of antiquities, to acknowledge the
liberality and kindness of Mr. Richard Heber, that the public would
probably be surprised had his extensive literary treasures escaped
contribution on this occasion, particularly as it contains several
additional volumes of the Luttrell collection. To both gentlemen the
Editor has to offer his public thanks; nor will he be tempted to dilate
further on the liberality of the one, and the tried friendship of the
other. It is possible, that these researches may, by their very nature,
have in some degree warped the Editor's taste, and induced him to
consider that as curious which was only scarce, and to reprint
quotations, from the adversaries or contemporaries of Dryden, of a
length more than sufficient to satisfy the reader of their unworthiness.
But, as the painter places a human figure, to afford the means of
computing the elevation of the principal object in his landscape, it
seemed that the giant-height of Dryden, above the poets of his day,
might be best ascertained by extracts from those who judged themselves,
and were sometimes deemed by others, his equals, or his superiors. For
the same reason, there are thrown into the Appendix a few indifferent
verses to the poet's memory; which, while they show how much his loss
was felt, point out, at the same time, the impossibility of supplying

In the Biographical Memoir, it would have been hard to exact, that the
Editor should rival the criticism of Johnson, or produce facts which had
escaped the accuracy of Malone. While, however, he has availed himself
of the labours of both, particularly of the latter, whose industry has
removed the cloud which so long hung over the events of Dryden's life,
he has endeavoured to take a different and more enlarged view of the
subject than that which his predecessors have presented. The general
critical view of Dryden's works being sketched by Johnson with
unequalled felicity, and the incidents of his life accurately discussed
and ascertained by Malone, something seemed to remain for him who should
consider these literary productions in their succession, as actuated by,
and operating upon, the taste of an age, where they had so predominant
influence; and who might, at the same time, connect the life of Dryden
with the history of his publications, without losing sight of the fate
and character of the individual. How far this end has been attained, is
not for the Editor to guess, especially when, as usual at the close of a
work, he finds he is possessed of double the information he had when he
commenced it. The kindness of Mr. Octavius Gilchrist, who undertook a
journey to Northamptonshire to examine the present state of Rushton,
where Dryden often lived, and of Mr. Finlay of Glasgow, who favoured the
Editor with the use of some original editions, falls here to be
gratefully acknowledged.

In collecting the poetry of Dryden, some hymns translated from the
service of the Catholic Church were recovered, by the favour of Captain
MacDonogh of the Inverness Militia.[2] As the body of the work was then
printed off, they were inserted in the Life of the Author; but should a
second impression of this edition be required by the public, they shall
be transferred to their proper place. To the Letters of Dryden,
published in Mr. Malone's edition of his prose works, the Editor has
been enabled to add one article, by the favour of Mrs. White of
Bownanhall, Gloucestershire. Those preserved at Knowles were examined at
the request of a noble friend, and the contents appeared unfit for
publication. Dryden's translations of Fresnoy's Art of Painting, and of
the Life of Xavier, are inserted without abridgment, for reasons which
are elsewhere alleged.[3] From the version of Maimbourg's "History of
the League," there is an extract given, which may be advantageously read
along with the Duke of Guise, and the Vindication of that play. The
prefaces and dedications are, of course, prefixed to the pieces to which
they belong; but those who mean to study them with reference to
theatrical criticism, will do well to follow the order recommended by
Mr. Malone.[4]

Several pieces published in Derrick's edition of Dryden's poetry, being
obviously spurious, are here published separately from his authentic
poetry, and with a suitable note of suspicion prefixed to each. They
might indeed have been altogether discarded without diminishing the
value of the work. Some account might be here given of the various
editions of Dryden's poems; but notices of this kind have been liberally
scattered through the Life and preliminary matter.

Upon the whole, it is hoped, that as the following is the first complete
edition of the Works of Dryden, it will be found, in accuracy of text
and copiousness of illustration, not altogether unworthy of the time,
labour, and expense which have been ungrudgingly bestowed upon an object
so important to English literature.


[1] The octavo edition of the "_Annus Mirabilis_" did not fall into my
hands till the volume containing it was printed off. It contains two
important variations: as, stanza 4, _the year_, read THEIR _year_;
stanza 53, _their main_, read MEN; both of which the reader is requested
to correct. Also an _erratum_ in verse 104, line 2, where the word
_fortune_ should be VIRTUE.

[2] By the hands of Mrs. Jackson, who has honoured me with a note,
stating, that they are mentioned in Butler's "Tour through Italy;" that
after Butler's death, the translations passed into the hands of the
celebrated Dr. Alban, whence they were transferred to those of the
present possessor.

[3] Vol. i. p. 283; vol. xvii.

[4] Which is, the Essay of Dramatic Poesy, the Defence of that Essay,
the Preface to the Mock Astrologer, the Essay on Heroic Plays, the
Defence of the Epilogue to the Second Part of the Conquest of Granada,
the Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy, and the Answer to Rymer.




The Life of John Dryden

SECT. I. Preliminary remarks on the Poetry of England before the Civil
Wars--The Life of Dryden from his Birth till the Restoration--His Early
Poems, including the Annus Mirabilis

SECT. II. Revival of the Drama at the Restoration--Heroic Plays--
Comedies of Intrigue--Commencement of Dryden's Dramatic Career--The Wild
Gallant--Rival Ladies--Indian Queen and Emperor--Dryden's Marriage--
Essay on Dramatic Poetry, and subsequent Controversy with Sir Robert
Howard--The Maiden Queen--The Tempest--Sir Martin Mar-all--The Mock
Astrologer--The Royal Martyr--The two Parts of the Conquest of Granada--
Dryden's situation at this period

SECT. III. Heroic Plays--The Rehearsal--Marriage à la Mode--The
Assignation--Controversy with Clifford--with Leigh--with Ravenscroft--
Massacre of Amboyna--State of Innocence

SECT. IV. Dryden's controversy with Settle--with Rochester--He is
assaulted in Rose Street--Aureng-Zebe--Dryden meditates an Epic Poem--
All for Love--Limberham--Oedipus--Troilus and Cressida--The Spanish
Friar--Dryden supposed to be in opposition to the Court

SECT. V. Dryden engages in Politics--Absalom and Achitophel, Part First
--The Medal--MacFlecknoe--Absalom and Achitophel, Part Second--The Duke
of Guise

SECT. VI. Threnodia Augustalis--Albion and Albanius--Dryden becomes a
Catholic--The Controversy of Dryden with Stillingfleet--The Hind and
Panther--Life of St. Francis Xavier--Consequences of the Revolution to
Dryden--Don Sebastian--King Arthur--Cleomenes--Love Triumphant

SECT. VII. State of Dryden's Connections in Society after the
Revolution--Juvenal and Persius--Smaller Pieces--Eleanora--Third
Miscellany--Virgil--Ode to St. Cecilia--Dispute with Milbourne--with
Blackmore--Fables--The Author's Death and Funeral--His Private
Character--Notices of his Family

SECT. VIII. The State of Dryden's Reputation at his Death, and
afterwards--The general Character of his Mind--His Merit as a Dramatist
--As a Lyrical Poet--As a Satirist--As a Narrative Poet--As a
Philosophical and Miscellaneous Poet--As a Translator--As a Prose
Author--As a Critic




       *       *       *       *       *


_Preliminary Remarks on the Poetry of England before the Civil Wars--
The Life of Dryden from his Birth till the Restoration--His early Poems,
including the "Annus Mirabilis."_

The Life of Dryden may be said to comprehend a history of the Literature
of England, and its changes, during nearly half a century. While his
great contemporary Milton was in silence and secrecy laying the
foundation of that immortal fame, which no poet has so highly deserved
Dryden's labours were ever in the eye of the public; and he maintained,
from the time of the Restoration till his death, in 1700, a decided and
acknowledged superiority over all the poets of his age. As he wrote from
necessity, he was obliged to pay a certain deference to the public
opinion; for he, whose bread depends upon the success of his volume, is
compelled to study popularity; but, on the other hand, his better
judgment was often directed to improve that of his readers; so that he
alternately influenced and stooped to the national taste of the day. If,
therefore, we would know the gradual changes which took place in our
poetry during the above period, we have only to consult the writings of
an author, who produced yearly some new performance allowed to be most
excellent in the particular style which was fashionable for the time. It
is the object of this memoir to connect, with the account of Dryden's
life and publications such a general view of the literature of the time,
as may enable the reader to estimate how far the age was indebted to the
poet, and how far the poet was influenced by the taste and manners of
the age. A few preliminary remarks on the literature of the earlier part
of the seventeenth century will form a necessary introduction to this
biographical memoir.

[1]When James I. ascended the throne of England he came to rule a court
and people, as much distinguished for literature as for commerce and
arms. Shakespeare was in the zenith of his reputation, and England
possessed other poets inferior to Shakespeare alone; or, indeed, the
higher order of whose plays may claim to be ranked above the inferior
dramas ascribed to him. Among these we may reckon Massinger, who
approached to Shakespeare in dignity; Beaumont and Fletcher, who
surpassed him in drawing female characters, and those of polite and
courtly life; and Jonson, who attempted to supply, by depth of learning,
and laboured accuracy of character, the want of that flow of
imagination, which nature had denied to him. Others, who flourished in
the reign of James and his son, though little known to the general
readers of the present age even by name, had a just claim to be
distinguished from the common herd of authors. Ford, Webster, Marston,
Brome, Shirley, even Chapman and Decker, added lustre to the stage for
which they wrote. The drama, it is true, was the branch of poetry most
successfully cultivated; for it afforded the most ready appeal to the
public taste. The number of theatres then open in all parts of the city,
secured to the adventurous poet the means of having his performance
represented upon one stage or other; and he was neither tired nor
disgusted by the difficulties, and disagreeable observances, which must
now be necessarily undergone by every candidate for dramatic laurels.[2]
But, although during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I, the
stage seems to have afforded the principal employment of the poets,
there wanted not many, who cultivated, with success, the other
departments of Parnassus. It is only necessary to name Spenser, whose
magic tale continues to interest us, in despite of the languor of a
continued allegory; Drayton, who, though less known, possesses perhaps
equal powers of poetry; Beaumont the elder, whose poem on Bosworth Field
carries us back to the days of the Plantagenets; Fairfax, the translator
of Tasso, the melody of whose numbers became the model of Waller;
besides many others, who ornamented this era of British literature.

Notwithstanding the splendour of these great names, it must be
confessed, that one common fault, in a greater or less degree, pervaded
the most admired poetry of Queen Elizabeth's age. This was the fatal
propensity to _false wit_; to substitute, namely, strange and
unexpected connections of sound, or of idea, for real humour, and even
for the effusions of the stronger passions It seems likely that this
fashion arose at court, a sphere in which its denizens never think they
move with due lustre, until they have adopted a form of expression, as
well as a system of manners, different from that which is proper to
mankind at large. In Elizabeth's reign, the court language was formed on
the plan of one Lillie, a pedantic courtier, who wrote a book, entitled
"Euphues and his England, or the Anatomy of Wit;"[3] which quality he
makes to consist in the indulgence of every monstrous and overstrained
conceit, that can be engendered by a strong memory and a heated brain,
applied to the absurd purpose of hatching unnatural conceits.[4] It
appears, that this fantastical person had a considerable share in
determining the false taste of his age, which soon became so general,
that the tares which sprung from it are to be found even among the
choicest of the wheat. Shakespeare himself affords us too many instances
of this fashionable heresy in wit; and he, who could create new worlds
out of his own imagination descended to low, and often ill-timed puns
and quibbles. This was not an evil to be cured by the accession of our
Scottish James, whose qualifications as a punster were at least equal to
his boasted _king-craft._[5] The false taste, which had been
gaining ground even in the reign of Elizabeth, now overflowed the whole
kingdom with the impetuosity of a land-flood. These outrages upon
language were committed without regard to time and place. They were held
good arguments at the bar, though Bacon sat on the woolsack; and
eloquence irresistible by the most hardened sinner, when King or Corbet
were in the pulpit.[6] Where grave and learned professions set the
example, the poets, it will readily be believed, ran headlong into an
error, for which they could plead such respectable example. The
affectation "of the word" and "of the letter," for alliteration was
almost as fashionable as punning, seemed, in some degree, to bring back
English composition to the barbarous rules of the ancient Anglo-Saxons,
the merit of whose poems consisted, not in the ideas, but in the quaint
arrangement of the words, and the regular recurrence of some favourite
sound or letter.

This peculiar taste for twisting and playing upon words, instead of
applying them to their natural and proper use, was combined with the
similar extravagance of those whom Dr. Johnson has entitled Metaphysical
Poets. This class of authors used the same violence towards images and
ideas which had formerly been applied to words; in truth, the two styles
were often combined and, even when separate, had a kindred alliance with
each other. It is the business of the punster to discover and yoke
together two words, which, while they have some resemblance in sound,
the more exact the better, convey a totally different signification. The
metaphysical poet, on the other hand, piqued himself in discovering
hidden resemblances between ideas apparently the most dissimilar, and in
combining by some violent and compelled association, illustrations and
allusions utterly foreign from each other. Thus did the metaphysical
poet resemble the quibbler exercising precisely the same tyranny over
ideas, which the latter practised upon sounds only.

Jonson gave an early example of metaphysical poetry; indeed, it was the
natural resource of a mind amply stored with learning, gifted with a
tenacious memory and the power of constant labour, but to which was
denied that vivid perception of what is naturally beautiful, and that
happiness of expression, which at once conveys to the reader the idea of
the poet These latter qualities unite in many passages of Shakespeare,
of which the reader at once acknowledges the beauty, the justice, and
the simplicity. But such Jonson was unequal to produce; and he
substituted the strange, forced, and most unnatural though ingenious
analogies, which were afterwards copied by Donne and Cowley.[7] In
reading Shakespeare, we often meet passages so congenial to our nature
and feelings, that, beautiful as they are, we can hardly help wondering
they did not occur to ourselves; in studying Jonson, we have often to
marvel how his conceptions could have occurred to any human being. The
one is like an ancient statue, the beauty of which, springing from the
exactness of proportion does not always strike at first sight, but rises
upon us as we bestow time in considering it; the other is the
representation of a monster, which is at first only surprising, and
ludicrous or disgusting ever after. When the taste for simplicity
however, is once destroyed, it is long ere a nation recovers it; and the
metaphysical poets seem to have retained possession of the public favour
from the reign of James I. till the beginning of the Civil Wars silenced
the muses. The universities were perhaps to blame during this period of
usurpation; for which it may be admitted in excuse, that the
metaphysical poetry could only be practised by men whose minds were
deeply stored with learning, and who could boldly draw upon a large fund
of acquired knowledge for supplying the expenditure of far-fetched and
extravagant images, which their compositions required. The book of
Nature is before all men; but when her limits are to be overstepped, the
acquirement of adventitious knowledge becomes of paramount necessity;
and it was but natural that Cambridge and Oxford should prize a style of
poetry, to which depth of learning was absolutely indispensable.

I have stated, that the metaphysical poetry was fashionable during the
early part of Charles the First's reign. It is true, that Milton
descended to upbraid that unfortunate prince, that the chosen companion
of his private hours was one _William Shakespeare, a player_; but
Charles admitted less sacred poets to share his partiality. Ben Jonson
supplied his court with masques, and his pageants with verses; and,
notwithstanding an ill-natured story, shared no inconsiderable portion
of his bounty.[8] Donne, a leader among the metaphysical poets, with
whom King James had punned and quibbled in person.[9] shared, in a
remarkable degree, the good graces of Charles I., who may therefore be
supposed no enemy to his vein of poetry, although neither his sincere
piety nor his sacred office restrained him from fantastic indulgence in
extravagant conceit, even upon the most solemn themes which can be
selected for poetry.[10] Cowley, who with the learning and acuteness of
Donne, possessed the more poetical qualities of a fertile imagination,
and frequent happiness of expression, and who claims the highest place
of all who ever plied the unprofitable trade of combining dissimilar and
repugnant ideas, was not indeed known to the king during his prosperity;
but his talents recommended him at the military court of Oxford, and the
[Transcriber's note: word missing here in the original] ingenious poet
of the metaphysical class enjoyed the applause of Charles before he
shared the exile of his consort Henrietta. Cleveland also was honoured
with the early notice of Charles;[11] one of the most distinguished
metaphysical bards, who afterwards exerted his talents of wit and satire
upon the royal side, and strained his imagination for extravagant
invective against the Scottish army, who sold their king, and the
parliament leaders, who bought him. All these, and others unnecessary to
mention, were read and respected at court; being esteemed by their
contemporaries, and doubtless believing themselves the wonder of their
own, and the pattern of succeeding ages; and however much they
[Transcriber's note: fragment of word only in original, presume "might"]
differ from each other in parts and genius, they sought the same road to
poetical fame, by starting the most unnatural images which their
imaginations could conceive, or by hunting more common allusions through
the most minute and circumstantial particulars and ramifications.

Yet, though during the age of Charles I. the metaphysical poets enjoyed
the larger proportion of public applause, authors were not wanting who
sought other modes of distinguishing themselves. Milton, who must not be
named in the same paragraph with others, although he had not yet
meditated the sublime work which was to carry his name to immortality,
disdained, even in his lesser compositions, the preposterous conceits
and learned absurdities, by which his contemporaries acquired
distinction. Some of his slighter academic prolusions are, indeed,
tinged with the prevailing taste of his age, or, perhaps, were written
in ridicule of it; but no circumstance in his life is more remarkable,
than that "Comus," the "Monody on Lycidas," the "Allegro and Penseroso,"
and the "Hymn on the Nativity," are unpolluted by the metaphysical
jargon and affected language which the age esteemed indispensable to
poetry. This refusal to bend to an evil so prevailing, and which held
out so many temptations to a youth of learning and genius, can only be
ascribed to the natural chastity of Milton's taste, improved by an
earnest and eager study of the purest models of antiquity.

But besides Milton, who stood aloof and alone, there was a race of
lesser poets, who endeavoured to glean the refuse of the applause reaped
by Donne, Cowley, and their followers, by adopting ornaments which the
latter had neglected, perhaps because they could be attained without
much labour or abstruse learning. The metaphysical poets, in their
slip-shod pindarics, had totally despised, not only smoothness and
elegance but the common rhythm of versification. Many and long passages
may be read without perceiving the least difference between them and
barbarous jingling, ill-regulated prose; and in appearance, though the
lines be divided into unequal lengths, the eye and ear acknowledge
little difference between them and the inscription on a tomb-stone. In a
word, not only harmony of numbers, but numbers themselves, were
altogether neglected; or if an author so far respected ancient practice
as to make lines which could be scanned like verse, he had done his
part, and was perfectly indifferent, although they sounded like
prose.[12] But as melody will be always acceptable to the ear, some
poets chose this neglected road to fame, and gained a portion of public
favour, by attending to the laws of harmony, which their rivals had
discarded. Waller and Denham were the first who thus distinguished
themselves; but, as Johnson happily remarks, what was acquired by
Denham, was inherited by Waller. Something there was in the situation of
both these authors, which led them to depart from what was then the
beaten path of composition. They were men of rank, wealth, and fashion,
and had experienced all the interruptions to deep study, with which such
elevated station is naturally attended. It was in vain for Waller, a
wit, a courtier, and a politician; or for Denham, who was only
distinguished at the university as a dreaming, dissipated gambler, to
attempt to rival the metaphysical subtleties of Donne and Cowley, who
had spent serious and sequestered lives in acquiring the knowledge and
learning which they squandered in their poetry. Necessity, therefore and
perhaps a dawning of more simple taste, impelled these courtly poets to
seek another and more natural mode of pleasing. The melody of verse was
a province unoccupied, and Waller, forming his rhythm upon the
modulation of Fairfax, and other poets of the maiden reign, exhibited in
his very first poem[13] striking marks of attention to the suavity of
numbers. Denham, in his dedication to Charles II., informs us, that the
indulgence of his poetical vein had drawn the notice, although
accompanied with the gentle censure, of Charles I., when, in 1647, he
obtained access to his person by the intercession of Hugh Peters.
Suckling, whom Dryden has termed "a sprightly wit, and a courtly
writer," may be added to the list of smooth and easy poets of the
period, and had the same motives as Denham and Waller for attaching
himself to that style of composition. He was allowed to have the
peculiar art of making whatever he did become him; and it cannot be
doubted, that his light and airy style of ballads and sonnets had many
admirers. Upon the whole, this class of poets, although they hardly
divided the popular favour with the others, were also noticed and
applauded. Thus the poets of the earlier part of the seventeenth century
may be divided into one class, who sacrificed both sense and sound to
the exercise of extravagant, though ingenious, associations of imagery;
and a second, who, aiming to distinguish themselves by melody of
versification, were satisfied with light and trivial subjects, and too
often contented with attaining smoothness of measure, neglected the more
essential qualities of poetry. The intervention of the civil wars
greatly interrupted the study of poetry. The national attention was
called to other objects, and those who, in the former peaceful reigns,
would have perhaps distinguished themselves as poets and dramatists,
were now struggling for fame in the field, or declaiming for power in
the senate. The manners of the prevailing party, their fanatical
detestation of everything like elegant or literary amusement, their
affected horror at stage representations, which at once silenced the
theatres, and their contempt for profane learning, which degraded the
universities, all operated, during the civil wars and succeeding
usurpation, to check the pursuits of the poet, by withdrawing that
public approbation, which is the best, and often the sole, reward of his
labour. There was, at this time, a sort of interregnum in the public
taste, as well as in its government. The same poets were no doubt alive
who had distinguished themselves at the court of Charles: but Cowley and
Denham were exiled with their sovereign; Waller was awed into silence,
by the rigour of the puritanic spirit; and even the muse of Milton was
scared from him by the clamour of religious and political controversy,
and only returned, like a sincere friend, to cheer the adversity of one
who had neglected her during his career of worldly importance.[14]

During this period, the most unfavourable to literature which had
occurred for at least two centuries, Dryden, the subject of this memoir,
was gradually and silently imbibing those stores of learning, and
cultivating that fancy which was to do so much to further the
reformation of taste and poetry. It is now time to state his descent and

The name of Dryden is local, and probably originated in the north of
England, where, as well as in the neighbouring counties of Scotland, it
frequently occurs, though it is not now borne by any person of
distinction. David Driden, or Dryden, married the daughter of William
Nicholson of Staff-hill, in the county of Cumberland and was the
great-great-grandfather of our poet. John Dryden, eldest son of David,
settled in Northamptonshire, where he acquired the estate of
Canons-Ashby, by marriage with Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir
John Cope of that county. Wood says, that John Dryden was by profession
a schoolmaster, and honoured with the friendship of the great Erasmus,
who stood godfather to one of his sons.[15] He appears, from some
passages in his will, to have entertained the puritanical principles,
which, we shall presently find, descended to his family.[16] Erasmus
Driden, his eldest son, succeeded to the estate of Canons-Ashby, was
high-sheriff of Northamptonshire in the fortieth year of Queen
Elizabeth, and was created a knight baronet in the seventeenth of King
James I. Sir Erasmus married Frances, second daughter and co-heiress of
William Wilkes of Hodnell, in Warwickshire by whom he had three sons,
first, Sir John Driden, his successor in the title and estate of
Canons-Ashby; second, William Driden of Farndon, in Northamptonshire;
third, Erasmus Driden of Tichmarsh, in the same county. The last of
these was the father of the poet.

Erasmus Driden married Mary, the daughter of the reverend Henry
Pickering, younger son of Sir Gilbert Pickering, a person who, though in
considerable favour with James I., was a zealous puritan, and so noted
for opposition to the Catholics that the conspirators in the Gunpowder
Treason, his own brother-in-law being one of the number,[17] had
resolved upon his individual murder, as an episode to the main plot;
determined so to conduct it, as to throw the suspicion of the
destruction of the Parliament upon the puritans.[18] These principles,
we shall soon see, became hereditary in the family of Pickering. Mr.
Malone's industry has collected little concerning our author's maternal
grandfather, excepting, that he was born in 1584; named minister of
Oldwinkle All-Saints in 1647; and died in 1657. From the time when he
attained this preferment, it is highly probable, that he had been
recommended to it by the puritanical tenets which he doubtless held in
common with the rest of his family.

Of the poet's father, Erasmus, we know even less than of his other
relations. He acted as a justice of peace during the usurpation, and was
the father of no less than fourteen children; four sons and ten
daughters. The sons were John, Erasmus, Henry, and James; the daughters,
Agnes, Rose, Lucy, Mary, Martha, Elizabeth, Hester, Hannah, Abigail,
Frances. Such anecdotes concerning them as my predecessors have
recovered, may be found in the note.[19]

JOHN DRYDEN, the subject of this memoir, was born at the parsonage house
of Oldwinkle All-Saints, on or about the 9th day of August 1631.[20] The
village then belonged to the family of Exeter, as we are informed by the
poet himself in the postscript to his Virgil. That his family were
Puritans may readily be admitted; but that they were Anabaptists,
although confidently asserted by some of our author's political or
poetical antagonists, appears altogether improbable. Notwithstanding,
therefore, the sarcasm of the Duke of Buckingham, the register of
Oldwinkle All-Saints parish, had it been in existence, would probably
have contained the record of our poet's baptism.[21]

Dryden seems to have received the rudiments of his education at
Tichmarsh,[22] and was admitted a king's scholar at Westminster,[23]
under the tuition of the celebrated Dr. Bushby,[24] for whom he ever
afterwards entertained the most sincere veneration. One of his letters
to his old master is addressed, "Honoured Sir," and couched in terms of
respect, and even humility, fully sufficient for the occasion. Another
written by Dryden, when his feelings were considerably irritated by a
supposed injustice done to his son, is nevertheless qualified by great
personal deference to his old preceptor. It may be readily supposed,
that such a scholar, under so able a teacher, must have made rapid
progress in classical learning. The bent of the juvenile poet, even at
this early period, distinguished itself. He translated the third satire
of Persius, as a Thursday night's task, and executed many other
exercises of the same nature, in English verse, none of which are now in
existence.[25] During the last year of his residence at Westminster, the
death of Henry Lord Hastings, a young nobleman of great learning, and
much beloved, called forth no less than ninety-eight elegies, one of
which was written by our poet, then about eighteen years old. They were
published in 1650, under the title of "_Lachrymae Musarum._"

Dryden, having obtained a Westminster scholarship was admitted to
Trinity College, Cambridge on the 11th May 1650, his tutor being the
reverend John Templer, M.A., a man of some learning, who wrote a Latin
Treatise in confutation of Hobbes, and a few theological tracts and
single sermons. While at college, our author's conduct seems not to have
been uniformly regular. He was subjected to slight punishment for
contumacy to the vice-master,[26] and seems, according to the statement
of an obscure libeller, to have been engaged in some public and
notorious dispute with a nobleman's son, probably on account of the
indulgence of his turn for satire.[27] He took, however, the degree of
Bachelor, in January 1653-4, but neither became Master of Arts,[28] nor
a fellow of the university and certainly never retained for it much of
that veneration usually paid by an English scholar to his Alma Mater. He
often celebrates Oxford, but only mentions Cambridge as the contrast of
the sister university in point of taste and learning:

  "Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
  Than his own mother-university:
  Thebes did his green unknowing youth engage,
  He chooses Athens in his riper age."[29]

A preference so uncommon, in one who had studied at Cambridge, probably
originated in some cause of disgust, which we may now search for in

In June 1654, the death of his father, Erasmus Dryden, proved a
temporary interruption to our author's studies. He left the university,
on this occasion, to take possession of his inheritance, consisting of
two-thirds of a small estate near Blakesley, in Northamptonshire, worth,
in all, about sixty pounds a year. The other third part of this small
property was bequeathed to his mother during her life, and the property
reverted to the poet after her death in 1676. With this little patrimony
our author returned to Cambridge, where he continued until the middle of
the year 1657.

Although Dryden's residence at the university was prolonged to the
unusual space of nearly seven years, we do not find that he
distinguished himself during that time by any poetical prolusions
excepting a few lines prefixed to a work, entitled, "Sion and Parnassus;
or Epigrams on several Texts of the Old and New Testament," published in
1650, by John Hoddesdon.[30] Mr. Malone conjectures that our poet would
have contributed to the academic collection of verses, entitled, "Oliva
Pacis," and published in 1654, on the peace between England and Holland,
had not his father's death interfered at that period. It is probable, we
lose but little by the disappearance of any occasional verses which may
have been produced by Dryden at this time. The elegy on Lord Hastings,
the lines prefixed to "Sion and Parnassus," and some complimentary
stanzas which occur in a letter to his cousin Honor Driden,[31] would
have been enough to assure us, even without his own testimony, that
Cowley was the darling of his youth; and that he imitated his points of
wit, and quirks of epigram, with a similar contempt for the propriety of
their application. From these poems, we learn enough to be grateful,
that Dryden was born at a later period in his century; for had not the
road to fame been altered in consequence of the Restoration, his
extensive information and acute ingenuity would probably have betrayed
the author of the "Ode to St. Cecilia," and the father of English
poetical harmony, into rivalling the metaphysical pindarics of Donne and

The verses, to which we allude, display their sublety [Transcriber's
note: sic] of thought, their puerile extravagance of conceit, and that
structure of verse, which, as the poet himself says of Holyday's
translations, has nothing of verse in it except the worst part of it--
the rhyme, and that far from being unexceptionable The following lines,
in which the poet describes the death of Lord Hastings by the small-pox,
will be probably admitted as a justification of this censure:

  "Was there no milder way but the small-pox;
  The very filthiness of Pandora's box?
  So many spots, like naeves, our Venus soil?
  One jewel set off with so many a foil?
  Blisters with pride swelled, which through 's flesh did sprout,
  Like rose-buds, stuck i'the lily-skin about.
  Each little pimple had a tear in it,
  To wail the fault its rising did commit,
  Which, rebel-like, with its own lord at strife,
  Thus made an insurrection 'gainst his life.
  Or were these gems sent to adorn his skin,
  The cabinet of a richer soul within?
  No comet need foretel his change drew on,
  Whose corpse might seem a constellation."

This is exactly in the tone of Bishop Corbet's invective against the
same disease:

  "Oh thou deformed unwoman-like disease,
  Thou plough'st up flesh and blood, and there sow'st pease;
  And leav'st such prints on beauty that dost come,
  As clouted shoon do on a floor of loam.
  Thou that of faces honey-combs dost make,
  And of two breasts two cullenders, forsake
  Thy deadly trade; now thou art rich, give o'er,
  And let our curses call thee forth no more."[32]

After leaving the university, our author entered the world, supported by
friends, from whose character, principles, and situation, it might have
been prophesied, with probability, that his success in life, and his
literary reputation, would have been exactly the reverse of what they
actually proved. Sir Gilbert Pickering was cousin-german to the poet,
and also to his mother; thus standing related to Dryden in a double
connection.[33] This gentleman was a staunch puritan, and having set out
as a reformer, ended by being a regicide, and an abettor of the tyranny
of Cromwell. He was one of the judges of the unfortunate Charles; and
though he did not sit in that bloody court upon the last and fatal day,
yet he seems to have concurred in the most violent measures of the
unconscientious men who did so. He had been one of the parliamentary
counsellors of state, and hesitated not to be numbered among the godly
and discreet persons who assisted Cromwell as a privy council. Moreover
he was lord chamberlain of the Protector's court, and received the
honour of his mock peerage.

The patronage of such a person was more likely to have elevated Dryden
to the temporal greatness and wealth acquired by the sequestrators and
committee-men of that oppressive time, than to have aided him in
attaining the summits of Parnassus. For, according to the slight records
which Mr. Malone has recovered concerning Sir Gilbert Pickering's
character, it would seem, that, to the hard, precise, fanatical contempt
of every illumination, save the inward light, which he derived from his
sect, he added the properties of a fiery temper, and a rude and savage
address.[34] In what capacity Dryden lived with his kinsman, or to what
line of life circumstances seemed to destine the future poet, we are
left at liberty to conjecture. Shadwell, the virulent antagonist of our
author, has called him Sir Gilbert Pickering's clerk; and it is indeed
highly probable that he was employed as his amanuensis, or secretary.

  The next step of advancement you began
  Was being clerk to Noll's lord chamberlain,
  A sequestrator and committee-man.

_The Medal of John Bayes_.

But I cannot, with Mr. Malone, interpret the same passage, by supposing
the third line of the triplet to apply to Dryden. Had he been actually a
member of a committee of sequestration, that circumstance would never
have remained in the dubious obscurity of Shadwell's poetry; it would
have been as often echoed and re-echoed as every other incident of the
poet's life which was capable of bearing an unfavourable interpretation.
I incline therefore to believe, that the terms _sequestrator_ and
_committee-man_ apply not to the poet, but to his patron Sir
Gilbert, to whom their propriety cannot be doubted.

Sir Gilbert Pickering was not our author's only relation at the court of
Cromwell. The chief of his family, Sir John Driden, elder brother of the
poet's father, was also a flaming and bigoted puritan,[35] through whose
gifts and merits his nephew might reasonably hope to attain preferment
In a youth entering life under the protection of such relations, who
could have anticipated the future dramatist and poet laureate, much less
the advocate and martyr of prerogative and of the Stuart family, the
convert and confessor of the Roman Catholic faith? In his after career,
his early connections with the puritans, and the principles of his
kinsmen during the civil wars and usurpation, were often made subjects
of reproach, to which he never seems to have deigned an answer.[36]

The death of Cromwell was the first theme of our poet's muse. Averse as
the puritans were to any poetry, save that of Hopkins, of Withers, or of
Wisdom, they may be reasonably supposed to have had some sympathy with
Dryden's sorrow upon the death of Oliver, even although it vented itself
in the profane and unprofitable shape of an elegy. But we have no means
of estimating its reception with the public, if, in truth, the public
long interested themselves about the memory of Cromwell, while his
relations and dependants presented to them the more animated and
interesting spectacle of a struggle for his usurped power. Richard
perhaps, and the immediate friends of the deceased Protector, with such
of Dryden's relations as were attached to his memory, may have thought,
like the tinker at the Taming of the Shrew, that this same elegy was
"marvellous good matter." It did not probably attract much general
attention. The first edition, in 1659, is extremely rare: it was
reprinted, however, along with those of Sprat and Waller, in the course
of the same year. After the Restoration this piece fell into a slate of
oblivion, from which it may be believed that the author, who had seen a
new light in politics, was by no means solicitous to recall it. His
political antagonist did not, however, fail to awaken its memory, when
Dryden became a decided advocate for the royal prerogative, and the
hereditary right of the Stuarts. During the controversies of Charles the
Second's reign, in which Dryden took so decided a share, his eulogy on
Cromwell was often objected to him, as a proof of inconsistence and
apostasy. One passage, which plainly applies to the civil wars in
general, was wrested to signify an explicit approbation of the murder of
Charles the First; and the whole piece was reprinted by an incensed
antagonist, under the title of "An Elegy on the Usurper O.C., by the
author of Absalom and Achitophel, published (it is ironically added) to
show the loyalty and integrity of the poet,"--an odd piece of vengeance,
which has perhaps never been paralleled, except in the single case of
"Love in a Hollow Tree."[37] The motives of the Duchess of Marlborough,
in reprinting Lord Grimestone's memorable dramatic essay, did not here
apply. The elegy on Cromwell, although doubtless sufficiently faulty,
contained symptoms of a regenerating taste; and, politically considered,
although a panegyric on an usurper, the topics of praise are selected
with attention to truth, and are, generally speaking, such as Cromwell's
worst enemies could not have denied to him. Neither had Dryden made the
errors, or misfortunes, of the royal family, and their followers, the
subject of censure or of contrast. With respect to them, it was hardly
possible that a eulogy on such a theme could have less offence in it.
This was perhaps a fortunate circumstance for Dryden at the Restoration;
and it must be noticed to his honour, that as he spared the exiled
monarch in his panegyric on the usurper, so, after the Restoration, in
his numerous writings on the side of royalty, there is no instance of
his recalling his former praise of Cromwell.

After the frequent and rapid changes which the government of England
underwent from the death of Cromwell, in the spring of 1660, Charles II.
was restored to the throne of his ancestors. It may be easily imagined,
that this event, a subject in itself highly fit for poetry, and which
promised the revival of poetical pursuits, was hailed with universal
acclamation by all whose turn for verse had been suppressed and stifled
during the long reign of fanaticism. The Restoration led the way to the
revival of letters, as well as that of legal government. With diaries,
as Dryden has expressed it,

  The officious muses came along,
  A gay, harmonious quire, like angels ever young.

It was not, however, to be expected, that an alteration of the taste
which had prevailed in the days of Charles I., was to be the immediate
consequence of the new order of things. The muse awoke, like the
sleeping beauty of the fairy tale, in the same antiquated and absurd
vestments in which she had fallen asleep twenty years before; or, if the
reader will pardon another simile, the poets were like those who, after
long mourning, resume for a time their ordinary dresses, of which the
fashion has in the meantime passed away. Other causes contributed to a
temporary revival of the metaphysical poetry. Almost all its professors,
attached to the house of Stuart, had been martyrs, or confessors at
least, in its cause. Cowley, their leader, was yet alive, and returned
to claim the late reward of his loyalty and his sufferings. Cleveland
had died a victim to the contempt, rather than the persecution, of the
republicans;[38] but this most ardent of cavalier poets was succeeded by
Wild, whose "_Iter Boreale_" a poem on Monk's march from Scotland
formed upon Cleveland's model, obtained extensive popularity among the
citizens of London.[39] Dryden's good sense and natural taste perceived
the obvious defects of these, the very coarsest of metaphysical poets;
insomuch, that, in his "Essay on Dramatic Poetry," he calls wresting and
torturing one word into another, a catachresis, or Clevelandism, and
charges Wild with being in poetry what the French call _un mauvais

Sprat, and an host of inferior imitators, marched for a time in the
footsteps of Cowley; delighted, probably, to discover in Pindaric
writing, as it was called, a species of poetry which required neither
sound nor sense, provided only there was a sufficient stock of florid
and extravagant thoughts, expressed in harsh and bombastic language.

But this style of poetry, although it was for a time revived, and indeed
continued to be occasionally employed even to the end of the eighteenth
century, had too slight foundation in truth and nature to maintain the
exclusive pre-eminence, which it had been exalted to during the reigns
of the two first monarchs of the Stuart race. As Rochester profanely
expressed it, Cowley's poetry was not of God, and therefore could not
stand. An approaching change of public taste was hastened by the manners
of the restored monarch and his courtiers. That pedantry which had
dictated the excessive admiration of metaphysical conceits, was not the
characteristic of the court of Charles II., as it had been of those of
his grandfather and father. Lively and witty by nature, with all the
acquired habits of an adventurer, whose wanderings, military and
political, left him time neither for profound reflection nor for deep
study, the restored monarch's literary taste, which was by no means
contemptible, was directed towards a lighter and more pleasing style of
poetry than the harsh and scholastic productions of Donne and Cowley.
The admirers, therefore, of this old school were confined to the ancient
cavaliers, and the old courtiers of Charles I.; men unlikely to lead the
fashion in the court of a gay monarch, filled with such men as
Buckingham, Rochester, Etherege, Sedley, and Mulgrave, whose time and
habits confined their own essays to occasional verses, and satirical
effusions, in which they often ridiculed the heights of poetry they were
incapable of attaining. With such men the class of poets, which before
the civil war held but a secondary rank, began to rise in estimation.
Waller, Suckling, and Denham, began to assert a pre-eminence over Cowley
and Donne; the ladies, whose influence in the court of James and Charles
I. was hardly felt, and who were then obliged to be contented with such
pedantic worship as is contained in the "Mistress" of Cowley, and the
"Epithalamion" of Donne, began now, when their voices were listened to,
and their taste consulted, to determine that their poetical lovers
should address them in strains more musical, if not more intelligible.
What is most acceptable to the fair sex will always sway the mode of a
gay court; and the character of a smooth and easy sonneteer was soon
considered as an indispensable requisite to a man of wit and fashion,
terms which were then usually synonymous.

To those who still retained a partiality for that exercise of the fancy
and memory, afforded by the metaphysical poetry, the style of satire
then prevalent afforded opportunities of applying it. The same depth of
learning, the same extravagant ingenuity in combining the most remote
images, and in driving casual associations to the verge of absurdity,
almost all the remarkable features which characterised the poetry of
Cowley, may be successfully traced in the satire of Hudibras. The sublime
itself borders closely on the ludicrous; but the bombast and extravagant
cannot be divided from it. The turn of thought, and the peculiar kind of
mental exertion, corresponds in both styles of writing; and although
Butler pursued the ludicrous, and Cowley aimed at the surprising, the
leading features of their poetry only differ like those of the same face
convulsed with laughter, or arrested in astonishment The district of
metaphysical poetry was thus invaded by the satirists, who sought
weapons there to avenge the misfortunes and oppression which they had so
lately sustained from the puritans; and as it is difficult in a laughing
age to render serious what has been once applied to ludicrous purposes,
Butler and his imitators retained quiet possession of the style which
they had usurped from the grave bards of the earlier age.

A single poet, Sir William Davenant,[40] made a meritorious, though a
misguided and unsuccessful effort, to rescue poetry from becoming the
mere handmaid of pleasure, or the partisan of political or personal
disputes, and to restore her to her natural rank in society, as an
auxiliary of religion, policy, law, and virtue. His heroic poem of
"Gondibert" has, no doubt, great imperfections; but it intimates
everywhere a mind above those laborious triflers, who called that poetry
which was only verse; and very often exhibits a majestic, dignified, and
manly simplicity, equally superior to the metaphysical school, by the
doctrines of which Davenant was occasionally misled. Yet, if that author
too frequently imitated their quaint affectation of uncommon sentiment
and associations, he had at least the merit of couching them in stately
and harmonious verse; a quality of poetry totally neglected by the
followers of Cowley. I mention Davenant here, and separate from the
other poets, who were distinguished about the time of the Restoration,
because I think that Dryden, to whom we are about to return, was, at
that period, an admirer and imitator of "Gondibert," as we are certain
that he was a personal and intimate friend of the author.

With the return of the king, the fall of Dryden's political patrons was
necessarily involved. Sir Gilbert Pickering, having been one of
Charles's judges, was too happy to escape into obscurity, under an
absolute disqualification for holding any office, political, civil, or
ecclesiastical. The influence of Sir John Driden was ended at the same
time; and thus both those relations, under whose protection Dryden
entered life, and by whose influence he was probably to have been aided
in some path to wealth or eminence, became at once incapable of
assisting him; and even connection with them was rendered, by the change
of times, disgraceful, if not dangerous. Yet it may be doubted whether
Dryden felt this evil in its full extent. Sterne has said of a
character, that a blessing which closed his mouth, or a misfortune which
opened it with a good grace, were nearly equal to him; nay, that
sometimes the misfortune was the more acceptable of the two. It is
possible, by a parity of reasoning, that Dryden may have felt himself
rather relieved from, than deprived of, his fanatical patrons, under
whose guidance he could never hope to have indulged in that career of
literary pursuit, which the new order of things presented to the
ambition of the youthful poet; at least, he lost no time in useless
lamentation, but, now in his thirtieth year, proceeded to exert that
poetical talent, which had heretofore been repressed by his own
situation, and that of the country.

Dryden, left to his own exertions, hastened to testify his joyful
acquiescence in the restoration of monarchy, by publishing "_Astroea
Redux_," a poem which was probably distinguished among the innumerable
congratulations poured forth upon the occasion; and he added to those
which hailed the coronation, in 1661, the verses entitled, "A Panegyric
to his Sacred Majesty." These pieces testify, that the author had
already made some progress in harmonising his versification. But they
also contain many of those points of wit, and turns of epigram, which he
condemned in his more advanced judgment. The same description applies,
in a yet stronger degree, to the verses addressed to Lord Chancellor
Hyde (Lord Clarendon) on the new-year's-day of 1662, in which Dryden has
more closely imitated the metaphysical poetry than in any poem, except
the juvenile elegy on Lord Hastings. I cannot but think, that the poet
consulted the taste of his patron, rather than his own, in adopting this
peculiar style. Clarendon was educated in the court of Charles I., and
Dryden may have thought it necessary, in addressing him, to imitate the
"strong verses," which were then admired.

According to the fashion of the times, such copies of occasional verses
were rewarded by a gratuity from the person to whom they were addressed;
and poets had not yet learned to think this mode of receiving assistance
incompatible with the feelings of dignity or delicacy. Indeed, in the
common transactions of that age, one sees something resembling the
eastern custom of accompanying with a present, and not always a splendid
one, the usual forms of intercourse and civility. Thus we find the
wealthy corporation of Hull, backing a polite address to the Duke of
Monmouth, their governor, with a present of _six broad pieces_; and his
grace deemed it a point of civility to press the acceptance of the same
gratuity upon the member of parliament for the city, by whom it was
delivered to him.[41] We may therefore believe, that Dryden received
some compliment from the king and chancellor; and I am afraid the same
premises authorise us to conclude that it was but trifling. Meantime,
our author having no settled means of support, except his small landed
property, and having now no assistance to expect from his more wealthy
kinsmen, to whom, probably, neither his literary pursuits, nor his
commencing them by a panegyric on the restoration, were very agreeable,
and whom he had also offended by a slight change in spelling his
name,[42] seems to have been reduced to narrow and uncomfortable
circumstances. Without believing, in its full extent, the exaggerated
account given by Brown and Shadwell,[43] we may discover from their
reproaches, that, at the commencement of his literary career, Dryden was
connected, and probably lodged, with Herringman the bookseller, in the
New Exchange, for whom he wrote prefaces, and other occasional pieces.
But having, as Mr. Malone has observed, a patrimony, though a small one,
of his own, it seems impossible that our author was ever in that state
of mean and abject dependence, which the malice of his enemies
afterwards pretended. The same malice misrepresented, or greatly
exaggerated, the nature of Dryden's obligations to Sir Robert Howard,
with whom he became acquainted probably about the time of the
Restoration, whose influence was exerted in his favour, and whose good
offices the poet returned by literary assistance.

Sir Robert Howard was a younger son of Thomas Earl of Berkshire,[44]
and, like all his family, had distinguished himself as a royalist,
particularly at the battle of Cropredy[45] Bridge. He had recently
suffered a long imprisonment in Windsor Castle during the usurpation.
His rank and merits made him, after the Restoration, a patron of some
consequence; and upon his publishing a collection of verses very soon
after that period, Dryden prefixed an address "to his honoured friend"
on "his excellent poems." Sir Robert Howard understood the value of
Dryden's attachment, introduced him into his family, and probably aided
in procuring his productions that degree of attention from the higher
world, for want of which the most valuable efforts of genius have often
sunk into unmerited obscurity. Such, in short, were his exertions in
favour of Dryden, that, though we cannot believe he was indebted to
Howard, for those necessaries of life which he had the means to procure
for himself, the poet found ground to acknowledge, that his patron had
not only been "carefull of his fortune, which was the effect of his
nobleness, but solicitous of his reputation, which was that of his

Thus patronised, our author seems to have advanced in reputation, as he
became more generally known to the learned and ingenious of his time.
Yet we have but few traces of the labour, by which he doubtless
attained, and secured, his place in society. A short satire on the
Dutch, written to animate the people of England against them, appeared
in 1662.[46] It is somewhat in the hard style of invective, which
Cleveland applied to the Scottish nation; yet Dryden thought it worth
while to weave the same verses into the prologue and epilogue of the
tragedy of "Amboyna," a piece written in 1673, with the same kind
intentions towards the states-general.

Science, as well as poetry, began to revive after the iron dominion of
military fanaticism was ended; and Dryden, who through life was attached
to experimental philosophy, speedily associated himself with those who
took interest in its progress. He was chosen a member of the newly
instituted Royal Society, 26th November 1662; an honour which cemented
his connection with the most learned men of the time, and is an evidence
of the respect in which he was already held. Most of these, and the
discoveries by which they had distinguished themselves, Dryden took
occasion to celebrate in his "Epistle to Dr. Walter Charleton," a
learned physician, upon his treatise of Stonehenge. Gilbert, Boyle,
Harvey, and Ent, are mentioned with enthusiastic applause as treading in
the path pointed out by Bacon, who first broke the fetters of Aristotle,
and taught the world to derive knowledge from experiment. In these
elegant verses, the author divests himself of all the flippant
extravagance of point and quibble, in which, complying with his age, he
had hitherto indulged, though of late in a limited degree.

While thus united in friendly communion with men of kindred and
congenial spirits, Dryden seems to have been sensible of the necessity
of applying his literary talents to some line, in which he might derive
a steadier and more certain recompence, than by writing occasional
verses to the great, or doing literary drudgery for the bookseller. His
own genius would probably have directed him to the ambitious labours of
an epic poem; but for this the age afforded little encouragement.
"Gondibert," the style of which, Dryden certainly both admired and
copied, became a martyr to the raillery of the critics; and to fill up
the measure of shame, the "Paradise Lost" fell still-born from the
press. This last instance of bad taste had not, it is true, yet taken
place; but the men who were guilty of it, were then living under
Dryden's observation and their manners and habits could not fail to
teach him, to anticipate the little encouragement they were likely to
afford to the loftier labours of poetry. One only line remained, in
which poetical talents might exert themselves, with some chance of
procuring their possessor's reward, or at least maintenance, and this
was dramatic composition. To this Dryden sedulously applied himself,
with various success, for many years. But before proceeding to trace the
history of his dramatic career, I proceed to notice such pieces of his
poetry, as exhibit marks of his earlier style of composition.

The victory gained by the Duke of York over the Dutch fleet on the 3d of
June 1665, and his Duchess's subsequent journey into the north,
furnished Dryden with the subject of a few occasional verses; in which
the style of Waller (who came forth with a poem on the same subject) is
successfully imitated. In addressing her grace, the poet suppresses all
the horrors of the battle, and turns her eyes upon the splendour of a
victory, for which the kingdom was indebted to her husband's valour, and
her "chaste vows." In these verses, not the least vestige of
metaphysical wit can be traced; and they were accordingly censured, as
wanting height of fancy, and dignity of words. This criticism Dryden
refuted, by alleging, that he had succeeded in what he did attempt, in
the softness of expression and smoothness of the measure (the
appropriate ornaments of an address to a lady), and that he was accused
of that only thing which he could well defend. It seems, however, very
possible, that these remarks impelled him to undertake a task, in which
vigour of fancy and expression might, with propriety, be exercised.
Accordingly, his next poem was of greater length and importance. This is
a historical account of the events of the year 1666, under the title of
"_Annus Mirabilis_" to which distinction the incidents which had
occurred in that space gave it some title. The poem being in the elegiac
stanza, Dryden relapsed into an imitation of "Gondibert," from which he
had departed ever since the "Elegy on Cromwell." From this it appears,
that the author's admiration of Davenant had not decreased. Indeed, he,
long afterwards, bore testimony to that author's quick and piercing
imagination; which at once produced thoughts remote, new, and
surprising, such as could not easily enter into any other fancy. Dryden
at least equalled Davenant in this quality; and certainly excelled him
in the powers of composition, which are to embody the conceptions of the
imagination; and in the extent of acquired knowledge, by which they were
to be enforced and illustrated. In his preface, he has vindicated the
choice of his stanza, by a reference to the opinion of Davenant,[47]
which he sanctions by affirming, that he had always himself thought
quatrains, or stanzas of verse in alternate rhyme, more noble, and of
greater dignity, both for sound and number, than any other verse in use
among us. By this attention to sound and rhythm, he improved upon the
school of metaphysical poets, which disclaimed attention to either; but
in the thought and expression itself, the style of Davenant more nearly
resembled Cowley's, than that of Denham and Waller. The same ardour for
what Dryden calls "wit-writing," the same unceasing exercise of the
memory, in search of wonderful thoughts and allusions, and the same
contempt for the subject, except as the medium of displaying the
author's learning and ingenuity, marks the style of Davenant, though in
a less degree than that of the metaphysical poets, and though chequered
with many examples of a simpler and chaster character. Some part of this
deviation was, perhaps, owing to the nature of the stanza; for the
structure of the quatrain prohibited the bard, who used it, from
rambling into those digressive similes, which, in the pindaric strophe,
might be pursued through endless ramifications. If the former started an
extravagant thought, or a quaint image, he was compelled to bring it to
a point within his four-lined stanza. The snake was thus scotched,
though not killed; and conciseness being rendered indispensable, a great
step was gained towards concentration of thought, which is necessary to
the simple and to the sublime The manner of Davenant, therefore, though
short-lived, and ungraced by public applause, was an advance towards
true taste, from the unnatural and frantic indulgence of unrestrained
fancy; and, did it claim no other merit, it possesses that of having
been twice sanctioned by the practice of Dryden, upon occasions of
uncommon solemnity.

The "_Annus Mirabilis_" evinces a considerable portion of labour and
attention; the lines and versification are highly polished, and the
expression was probably carefully corrected. Dryden as Johnson remarks,
already exercised the superiority of his genius, by recommending his own
performance, as written upon the plan of Virgil; and as no unsuccessful
effort at producing those well-wrought images and descriptions, which
create admiration, the proper object of heroic poetry. The "_Annus
Mirabilis_" may indeed be regarded as one of Dryden's most elaborate
pieces; although it is not written in his later, better, and most
peculiar style of poetry.

The poem first appeared in octavo, in 1667, and was afterwards
frequently reprinted in quarto. It was dedicated to the metropolis of
Great Britain, as represented by the lord mayor and magistrates. A
letter to Sir Robert Howard was prefixed to the poem, in which the
author explains the purpose of the work, and the difficulties which
presented themselves in the execution. And in this epistle, as a
contrast between the smooth and easy style of writing which was proper
in addressing a lady, and the exalted style of heroic, or at least
historical, poetry, he introduces the verses to the Duchess of York,
already mentioned.

The "_Annus Mirabilis_" being the last poetical work of any importance
produced by our author, until "Absalom and Achitophel," the reader may
here pause, and consider, in the progressive improvement of Dryden, the
gradual renovation of public taste. The irregular pindaric ode was now
abandoned to Arwaker, Behn, Durfey, and a few inferior authors; who
either from its tempting facility of execution, or from an affected
admiration of old times and fashions, still pestered the public with
imitations of Cowley. The rough measure of Donne (if it had any
pretension to be called a measure) was no longer tolerated, and it was
expected, even of those who wrote satires, lampoons, and occasional
verses, that their rhymes should be rhymes, both to the ear and eye; and
that they should neither adore their mistresses nor abuse their
neighbours, in lines which differed only from prose in the fashion of
printing. Thus the measure used by Rochester, Buckingham Sheffield,
Sedley, and other satirists, if not polished or harmonized, approaches
more nearly to modern verse, than that of Hall or Donne. In the "Elegy
on Cromwell," and the "_Annus Mirabilis_," Dryden followed Davenant, who
abridged, if he did not explode, the quaintnesses of his predecessors.
In "_Astroea Redux_" and his occasional verses to Dr. Charlton, the
Duchess of York, and others, the poet proposed a separate and simpler
model, more dignified than that of Suckling or Waller; more harmonious
in measure, and chaste in expression, than those of Cowley and Crashaw.
Much, there doubtless remained, of ancient subtlety, and ingenious
quibbling; but when Dryden declares, that he proposes Virgil, in
preference to Ovid, to be his model in the "_Annus Mirabilis_" it
sufficiently implies that the main defect of the poetry of the last age
had been discovered, and was in the way of being amended by gradual and
almost imperceptible degrees.

In establishing, or refining, the latter style of writing, in couplet
verse, our author found great assistance from his dramatic practice; to
trace the commencement of which is the purpose of the next Section.

[1] [The statements in this paragraph are somewhat rhetorical.
Massinger, for instance, was still at Oxford when James ascended the
throne, and though he began to write a few years later, his earliest
published play now extant appeared nearly twenty years afterwards. But
the general drift is untouched.--ED.]

[2] I do not pretend to enter into the question of the effect of the
drama upon morals. If this shall be found prejudicial, two theatres are
too many. But, in the present woful decline of theatrical exhibition, we
may be permitted to remember, that the gardener who wishes to have a
rare diversity of a common flower, sows whole beds with the species; and
that the monopoly granted to two huge theatres must necessarily
diminish, in a complicated ratio, both the number of play-writers, and
the chance of anything very excellent being brought forward.

[3] [Scott is here far too harsh. "Euphues" is not a book to be
despatched in a note, but the reader may be requested to suspend his
judgment until he has read it.--ED.]

[4] Our deserved idolatry of Shakespeare and Milton was equalled by that
paid to this pedantic coxcomb in his own time. He is called in the
title-page of his plays (for, besides "Euphues," he wrote what he styled
"Court Comedies"), "the only rare poet of that time; the witty, comical,
facetiously quick, and unparalleled John Lillie." Moreover, his editor,
Mr. Blount, assures us, "that he sate at Apollo's table; that Apollo
gave him a wreath of his own bays without snatching; and that the lyre
he played on had no broken strings." Besides which, we are informed,
"Our nation are in his debt for a new English, which he taught them;
'Euphues and his England' began first that language. All our ladies were
then his scholars; and that beauty in court who could not _parle
Euphuism_, was as little regarded, as she which now there speaks not

[5] So that learned and sapient monarch was pleased to call his skill in

[6] Witness a sermon preached at St. Mary's before the university of
Oxford. It is true the preacher was a layman, and harangued in a gold
chain, and girt with a sword, as high sheriff of the county; but his
eloquence was highly applauded by the learned body whom he addressed,
although it would have startled a modern audience, at least as much as
the dress of the orator. "Arriving," said he, "at the Mount of St.
Mary's, in the stony stage where I now stand, I have brought you some
fine biscuits, baked in the oven of charity, carefully conserved for the
chickens of the church, the sparrows of the spirit, and the sweet
swallows of salvation." "Which way of preaching," says Anthony Wood, the
reporter of the homily, "was then mostly in fashion, and commended by
the generality of scholars."--_Athenae Oxon_. vol. i. p.183.

[7] Look at Ben Jonson's "Ode to the Memory of Sir Lucius Carey and Sir
H. Morison," and at most of his Pindarics. But Ben, when he pleased,
could assume the garb of classic simplicity; witness many of his lesser

[8] In Jonson's last illness, Charles is said to have sent him ten
pieces. "He sends me so miserable a donation," said the expiring
satirist, "because I am poor, and live in an alley; go back and tell
him, his soul lives in an alley." Whatever be the truth of this
tradition, we know from an epigram by Jonson, that the king at one time
gave him an hundred pounds; no trifling gift for a poor bard, even in
the present day.

[9] "About a year after his return out of Germany, Dr. Cary was made
bishop of Exeter; and by his removal, the deanery of St. Paul's being
vacant, the king sent to Dr. Donne, and appointed him to attend him at
dinner the next day. When his majesty was sate down, before he had eat
any meat, he said, after his pleasant manner, 'Dr. Donne, I have invited
you to dinner; and though you sit not down with me, yet I will carve to
you of a dish that I know you love well; for knowing you love London, I
do therefore make you dean of Paul's; and when I have dined, then do you
take your beloved dish home to your study; say grace there to yourself,
and much good may it do you."--WALTON'S _Life of Donne._

[10] See his "Verses to Mr. George Herbert, sent him with one of my
seals of the anchor and Christ. A sheaf of snakes used heretofore to be
my seal, which is the crest of our poor family." Upon the subject of
this change of device he thus quibbles:

  "Adopted in God's family, and so
  My old coat lost, into new arms I go;
  The cross my seal, in baptism spread below,
  Does by that form into an anchor grow:
  Crosses grow anchors; bear as thou shouldst do
  Thy cross, and that cross grows an anchor too," etc.

[11] See his Life, prefixed to his Poems, 12mo, 1677.

[12] It is pleasing to see the natural good taste of honest old Isaac
Walton struggling against that of his age. He introduces the beautiful

  "Come live with me, and be my love,"

as "that smooth song made by Kit Marlow, now at least fifty years ago."
"The milkmaid's mother," he adds, "sung an answer to it, which was made
by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger days. They were old-fashioned
poetry, but choicely good. I think much better than _the strong lines_
that are in fashion in this critical age."--_The Complete Angler_, Edit.
vi. p. 65.

[13] "A Poem on the Danger Charles I., being Prince, escaped in the Road
at St. Andero."

[14] [The Jacobean and Caroline poets, especially Donne and Cowley,
require considerable allowance to be made on Scott's judgment by those
who are not familiar with them.--ED.]

[15] _Fasti Oxon._ vol. i. p. 115. Considering John Dryden's marriage
with the heiress of a man of knightly rank, it seems unlikely that he
followed the profession of a schoolmaster. But Wood could hardly be
mistaken in the second circumstance some of the family having gloried in
it in his hearing.

[16] See Collins' _Baronetage_, vol. ii. The testator bequeaths his soul
to his Creator, with this singular expression of confidence, "the Holy
Ghost assuring my spirit, that I am the elect of God."

[17] Robert Keies, executed 31st January 1606, of whom Fuller, in his
Church History, tells the following anecdote:--"A few days before the
fatal blow should have been given, Keies, being at Tichmarsh, in
Northamptonshire, at his brother-in-law's house, Mr. Gilbert Pickering,
a Protestant, he suddenly whipped out his sword, and in merriment made
many offers therewith at the heads, necks, and sides, of several
gentlemen and ladies then in his company. It was then taken for a mere
frolic, and so passed accordingly; but afterwards, when the treason was
discovered, such as remembered his gestures thought he practised what he
intended to do when the plot should take effect; that is, to hack and
hew, kill and destroy, all eminent persons of a different religion from
himself."--CAULFIELD's _History of the Gunpowder Plot._

[18] The following curious story is told to that effect, in Caulfield's
"History of the Gunpowder Plot," p. 67:--

"There was a Mr. Pickering of Tichmarsh-Grove, in Northamptonshire who
was in great esteem with King James. This Mr. Pickering had a horse of
special note for swiftness, on which he used to hunt with the king. A
little before the blow was to be given, Mr. Keies, one of the
conspirators, and brother-in-law to Mr. Pickering, borrowed this horse
of him, and conveyed him to London upon a bloody design, which was thus
contrived:--Fawkes, upon the day of the fatal blow, was appointed to
retire himself into St. George's Fields, where this horse was to attend
him, to further his escape (as they made him believe) as soon as the
Parliament should be blown up. It was likewise contrived, that Mr.
Pickering, who was noted for a puritan, should that morning be murdered
in his bed, and secretly conveyed away; and also that Fawkes, as soon as
he came into St. George's Fields, should be there murdered, and so
mangled, that he could not be known; upon which, it was to be spread
abroad, that the puritans had blown up the parliament-house; and the
better to make the world believe it, there was Mr. Pickering, with his
choice horse ready to escape. But that stirred up some, who seeing the
heinousness of the fact, and him ready to escape, in detestation of so
horrible a deed, fell upon him, and hewed him to pieces; and to make it
more clear, there was his horse, known to be of special speed and
swiftness, ready to carry him away; and upon this rumour, a massacre
should have gone through the whole land upon the puritans.

"When the contrivance of this plot was discovered by some of the
conspirators, and Fawkes, who was now a prisoner in the Tower, made
acquainted with it, whereas before he was made to believe by his
companions, that he should be bountifully rewarded for that his good
service to the Catholic cause, now perceiving, that, on the contrary,
his death had been contrived by them, he thereupon freely confessed all
that he knew concerning that horrid conspiracy, which before all the
torments of the rack could not force him to do.

"The truth of this was attested by Mr. William Perkins, who had it from
Mr. Clement Cotton, to whom Mr. Pickering gave the above relation."

[19] Erasmus, the poet's immediate younger brother, was in trade, and
resided in King-street, Westminster. He succeeded to the family title
and estate upon the death of Sir John Dryden, and died at the seat of
Canons-Ashby 3d November 1718, leaving one daughter and five grandsons.
Henry, the poet's third brother, went to Jamaica, and died there,
leaving a son, Richard. James, the fourth of the sons, was a tobacconist
in London, and died there, leaving two daughters. Of the daughters, Mr.
Malone, after Oldys, says, that Agnes married Sylvester Emelyn of
Stanford, Gent.; that Rose married ---- Laughton of Calworth, D.D., in
the county of Huntington; that Lucy became the wife of Stephen Umwell of
London, merchant; and Martha of ---- Bletso of Northampton. Another of
the daughters was married to one Shermardine, a bookseller in Little
Britain; and Frances, the youngest, to Joseph Sandwell, a tobacconist in
Newgate-street This last died 10th October 1730, at the advanced age of
ninety. She had survived the poet about thirty years. Of the remaining
four sisters, no notices occur.

[20] [A few facts of a more precise kind about the contents of this and
the foregoing paragraphs may be grouped here. The Rev. H. Pickering was
rector of Aldwinkle (the better form) All-Saints from 1507 to 1637, not
from 1647 to 1657. This destroys Scott's inference. The error arose from
a misreading of his epitaph. "The village" did not strictly belong to
Lord Exeter: but he had property in Aldwinkle St. Peter's, and the two
parishes are close together, one church being at one end and the other
at the other of the joint village. Erasmus Dryden and Mary Pickering
were married at the church of Pilton, a very small village between
Aldwinkle and Oundle, on October 21, 1630. Dryden was therefore
indisputably the eldest son. Blakesley, where his father's property was
situated, is not near Aldwinkle or Tichmarsh, which are close together
on opposite sides of the river Nene, and about two miles from Thrapston,
but near Canons-Ashby on the other side of the county. The estate (of
about two hundred acres) was united to that of Canons-Ashby after the
death of Dryden's youngest son. But, unlike Canons-Ashby, it does not
now belong to the family, having been sold many years ago.--ED.]

  "And though no wit ran royal blood infuse,
  No more than melt a mother to a muse,
  Yet much a certain poet undertook,
  That men and manners deals in without book;
  And might not more to gospel truth belong,
  Than he _(if christened)_ does by name of John."
              _Poetical Reflections_, etc. See vol. ix.

Another opponent of our author calls him

  "A bristled Baptist bred, and then thy strain
  Immaculate was free from sinful stain."
              _The Laureat_, vol. x.

[22] Upon a monument, erected by Elizabeth Creed to the poet's memory in
the church at Tichmarsh, are these words:--"We boast that he was bred
and had his first learning here." [A rival tradition favours Oundle,
which had and has a grammar school of merit.--ED.]

[23] The date is not known. That of his admission to Trinity, _infra_,
should be May 18. He matriculated on July 16, and was not elected to his
scholarship till October 2.--ED.

[24] [More usually Busby.--ED.]

[25] "I remember (says Dryden, in a postscript to the argument of the
third satire of Perseus) I translated this satire when I was a King's
scholar at Westminster school, for Thursday night's exercise; and
believe, that it, and many other of my exercises of this nature in
English verse, are still in the hands of my learned master, the Rev. Dr.

[26] The following order is quoted, by Mr. Malone, from the
Conclusion-book, in the archives of Trinity College, p. 221.

  "July 19, 1652. Agreed, then, That Dryden be put out of Comons, for a
  fortnight at least; and that he goe not out of the colledg, during the
  time aforesaid, excepting to sermons, without express leave from the
  master, or vice-master; and that, at the end of the fortnight, he read
  a confession of his crime in the hall, at dinner time, at the three
  ... fellowes table.

  "His crime was, his disobedience to the vice-master, and his contumacy
  in taking his punishment inflicted by him."

[27] Shadwell, in the Medal of John Bayes,

  "At Cambridge Brat your scurrilous vein began,
  Where saucily you traduced a nobleman;
  Who for that crime rebuked you on the head,
  And you had been expelled, had you not fled."

[28] He received this degree by dispensation from the Archbishop of

[29] Prologue to the University of Oxford.

[30] Jonathan Dryden, elected a scholar from Westminster into Trinity
College, Cambridge, in 1656, of which he became fellow in 1662, was
author of some verses in the Cambridge Collections in 1661, on the death
of the Duke of Gloucester, and the marriage of the Princess of Orange;
and in 1662, on the marriage of Charles II., which have been imputed to
our author. An order, quoted by Mr. Malone, for abatement of the
commencement-money paid at taking the Bachelor's degree, on account of
poverty, applies to Jonathan, not to John Dryden.--MALONE, vol. i. p.17,

[31] [This letter will be found in its proper place. It is the sole
personal utterance in prose, and almost the only biographical fact of
importance that we have for the first thirty years of Dryden's life.
Upon it, an entirely baseless romance has been built of disappointed
love and parental unkindness. There is absolutely no evidence that
Dryden ever seriously pretended to his cousin's hand, or that he was
rejected, or that this rejection was due to his uncle's influence.--ED.]

[32] Elegy on Lady Haddington, in Corbet's Poems, p. 121. Gilchrist's

[33] Sir John Pickering, father of Sir Gilbert, married Susan, the
sister of Erasmus Dryden, the poet's father. But Mary Pickering, the
poet's mother, was niece to Sir John Pickering; and thus his son Sir
Gilbert was _her_ cousin-german also.

[34] In one lampoon, he is called "fiery Pickering." Walker, in his
"Sufferings of the Clergy," prints Jeremiah Stevens' account of the
Northamptonshire committee of sequestration in which the character of
Pickering, one of the members of that oppressive body, is thus drawn:--
"Sir G---- P---- had an uncle, whose ears were cropt for a libel on
Archbishop Whitgift; was first a presbyterian, then an independent, then
a Brownist, and afterwards an anabaptist. He was a most furious, fiery,
implacable man; was the principal agent in casting out most of the
learned clergy; a great oppressor of the country; got a good manor for
his booty of the E. of R. and a considerable purse of gold by a plunder
at Lynn in Norfolk." He is thus characterized by an angry limb of the
commonwealth, whose republican spirit was incensed by Cromwell creating
a peerage:--"Sir Gilbert Pickering, knight of the old stamp, and of
considerable revenue in Northamptonshire; one of the Long Parliament,
and a great stickler in the change of the government from kingly to that
of a commonwealth;--helped to make those laws of treason against
kingship; has also changed with all changes that have been since. He was
one of the Little Parliament, and helped to break it, as also of all the
parliaments since; is one of the Protector's council (his salary £1000
_per annum_, besides other places), and as if he had been pinned to this
slieve, was never to seek; is become high steward of Westminster; and
being so finical, spruce, and like an old courtier, is made
lord-chamberlain of the Protector's household or court; so that he may
well be counted fit and worthy to be taken out of the House to have a
negative voice in the other House, though he helped to destroy it in the
king and lords. There are more besides him, that make themselves
transgressors by building again the things which they once destroyed."
Quoted by Mr. Malone from a rare pamphlet in his collection entitled "A
Second Narrative of the late Parliament, 1658."

[35] Like Sir Gilbert Pickering, he was a member of the Northamptonshire
committee of sequestration, and his deeds are thus commemorated in
Walker's "Sufferings of the Clergy:"--"Sir J---- D----n was never noted
for ability or discretion; was a puritan by tenure, his house (Canons
Ashby) being an ancient college, where he possessed the church, and
abused most part of it to profane uses: the chancel he turned to a barn;
the body of it to a corn-chamber and storehouse, reserving one side
aisle of it for the public service of prayers, etc. He was noted for
weakness and simplicity, and never put on any business of moment, but
was very furious against the clergy."

[36] In a satire called "The Protestant Poets," our author is thus
contrasted with Sir Roger L'Estrange. In levelling his reproaches, the
satirist was not probably very solicitous about genealogical accuracy;
as, in the eighth line, I conceive Sir John Dryden to be alluded to,
although he is termed our poet's grandfather, when he was in fact his
uncle. Sir Erasmus Dryden was indeed a fanatic, and so was Henry
Pickering, Dryden's paternal and maternal grandfather; but neither were
men of mark or eminence:

  "But though he spares no waste of words or conscience,
  He wants the Tory turn of thorough nonsense,
  That thoughtless air, that makes light Hodge so jolly;--
  Void of all weight, _he_ wantons in his folly.
  No so forced BAYES, whom sharp remorse attends,
  While his heart loaths the cause his tongue defends;
  Hourly he acts, hourly repents the sin,
  And is all over _grandfather_ within:
  By day that ill-laid spirit checks,--o' nights
  Old Pickering's ghost, a dreadful spectre, frights.
  Returns of spleen his slacken'd speed remit,
  And crump his loose careers with intervals of wit:
  While, without stop at sense, or ebb of spite,
  Breaking all bars, bounding o'er wrong and right,
  Contented Roger gallops out of sight."

[37] This piece was called in, and destroyed by the noble author; but
Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, when opposing Lord Grimestone at an
election, maliciously printed and dispersed a large impression of his
smothered performance, with a frontispiece representing an elephant
dancing on the slack rope.

[38] He was one of the garrison of Newark, which held out so long for
Charles I., and has left a curious specimen of the wit of the time, in
his controversy with a parliamentary officer, whose servant had robbed
him, and taken refuge in Newark. The following is the beginning of his
answer to a demand that the fugitive should be surrendered:

"Sixthly, Beloved,

"Is it so then, that our brother and fellow-labourer in the Gospel is
start aside? then this may serve for an use of instruction, not to trust
in man, nor in the son of man. Did not Demas leave Paul? did not
Onesimus run from his master Philemon? besides, this should teach us to
employ our talent, and not to lay it up in a napkin. Had it been done
among the cavaliers, it had been just; then the Israelite had spoiled
the Egyptian; but for Simeon to plunder Levi, that! that! You see, sir,
what use I make of the doctrine you sent me; and indeed since you change
style so far as to nibble at wit, you must pardon me, if, to quit
scores, I pretend a little to the gift of preaching," etc.

Such was the wit of Cleveland. After the complete subjugation of the
royalists, he was apprehended, having in his possession a bundle of
poems and satirical songs against the republicans. He appeared before
the commonwealth-general with the dignified air of one who is prepared
to suffer for his principles. He was disappointed; for the military
judge, after a contemptuous glance at the papers, exclaimed to
Cleveland's accusers, "Is this all ye have against him? Go, let the poor
knave sell his ballads!" Such an acquittal was more severe than any
punishment. The conscious virtue of the loyalist would have borne the
latter; but the pride of the poet could not sustain his contemptuous
dismissal; and Cleveland is said to have broken his heart in
consequence.--_Biographia Britannica_, voce _Cleveland_.

[39] "He is the very Withers of the city," says Dryden of Wild; "they
have bought more editions of his works than would serve to lay under all
their pies at the lord mayor's Christmas. When his famous poem first
came out in the year 1660, I have seen them reading it in the midst of
change time; nay, so vehement they were at it, that they lost their
bargain by the candles' ends; but what will you say, if he has been
received amongst great persons? I can assure you he is this day the envy
of one who is lord in the art of quibbling, and who does not take it
well, that any man should intrude so far into his province."--Vol. xv.

[40] [It may be well to note that "Gondibert" was published in 1651, ten
years before the Restoration. This does not affect the general accuracy
of Scott's remarks as to Davenant's poetical position and his influence
on Dryden, but the reader might draw a mistaken inference from those
remarks as to the date of the poem.--ED.]

[41] "The Duke of Monmouth returned on Saturday from New-Market. To-day
I waited on him, and first presented him with your letter, which he read
all over very attentively; and then prayed me to assure you, that he
would, upon all occasions, be most ready to give you the marks of his
affection, and assist you in any affairs you should recommend to him. I
then delivered him the six broad pieces, telling him, that I was deputed
to blush on your behalf for the meanness of the present, etc.; but he
took me off, and said he thanked you for it, and accepted it as a token
of your kindness. He had, before I came in, as I was told, considered
what to do with the gold; and but that I by all means prevented the
offer, or I had been in danger of being reimbursed with it."--ANDREW
MARVELL'S _Works_, vol. i. p. 210; _Letter to the Mayor of Hull_.

[42] From Driden to Dryden.

[43] Shadwell makes Dryden say, that after some years spent at the
university, he came to London. "At first I struggled with a great deal
of persecution, took up with a lodging which had a window no bigger than
a pocket looking-glass, dined at a three-penny ordinary enough to starve
a vacation tailor, kept little company, went clad in homely drugget, and
drunk wine as seldom as a rechabite, or the grand seignior's confessor."
The old gentleman, who corresponded with the "Gentleman's Magazine," and
remembered Dryden before the rise of his fortunes, mentions his suit of
plain drugget, being, by the bye, the same garb in which he has clothed
Flecnoe, who "coarsely clad in Norwich drugget came."

[44] [Scott, by an evident slip, "Berkeley."--ED.]

[45] [Scott, "Cropley."--ED.]

[46] [This is a mistake. See "Amboyna."--ED.]

[47] Davenant alleges the advantages of a respite and pause between
every stanza, which should be so constructed as to comprehend a period;
and adds, "nor doth alternate rhyme, by any lowliness of cadence, make
the sound less heroic, but rather adapt it to a plain and stately
composing of music; and the brevity of the stanza renders it less subtle
to the composer, and more easy to the singer, which, in _stilo
recitativo_, when the story is long, is chiefly requisite."--_Preface
to Gondibert._


_Revival of the Drama at the Restoration--Heroic Plays--Comedies of
Intrigue--Commencement of Dryden's Dramatic Career--The Wild Gallant--
Rival Ladies--Indian Queen and Emperor--Dryden's Marriage--Essay on
Dramatic Poetry, and subsequent Controversy with Sir Robert Howard--The
Maiden Queen--The Tempest--Sir Martin Mar-all--The Mock Astrologer--The
Royal Martyr--The Two Parts of the Conquest of Granada--Dryden's
Situation at this Period._

It would appear that Dryden, at the period of the Restoration, renounced
all views of making his way in life except by exertion of the literary
talents with which he was so eminently endowed. His becoming a writer of
plays was a necessary consequence; for the theatres, newly opened after
so long silence, were resorted to with all the ardour inspired by
novelty; and dramatic composition was the only line which promised
something like an adequate reward to the professors of literature. In
our sketch of the taste of the seventeenth century previous to the
Restoration, this topic was intentionally postponed.

In the times of James I. and of his successor, the theatre retained, in
some degree, the splendour with which the excellent writers of the
virgin reign had adorned it. It is true, that authors of the latter
period fell far below those gigantic poets, who flourished in the end of
the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries; but what the
stage had lost in dramatic composition, was, in some degree, supplied by
the increasing splendour of decoration, and the favour of the court. A
private theatre, called the Cockpit, was maintained at Whitehall, in
which plays were performed before the court; and the king's company of
actors often received command to attend the royal progresses.[1]
Masques, a species of representation calculated exclusively for the
recreation of the great, in whose halls they were exhibited, were an
usual entertainment of Charles and his consort. The machinery and
decorations were often superintended by Inigo Jones, and the poetry
composed by Ben Jonson the laureate. Even Milton deigned to contribute
one of his most fascinating poems to the service of the drama; and,
notwithstanding the severity of his puritanic tenets, "Comus" could only
have been composed by one who felt the full enchantment of the theatre.
But all this splendour vanished at the approach of civil war. The stage
and court were almost as closely united in their fate as royalty and
episcopacy, had the same enemies, the same defenders, and shared the
same overwhelming ruin. "No throne no theatre," seemed as just a dogma
as the famous "No king no bishop." The puritans indeed commenced their
attack against royalty in this very quarter; and, while they impugned
the political exertions of prerogative, they assailed the private
character of the monarch and his consort, for the encouragement given to
the profane stage, that rock of offence, and stumbling-block to the
godly. Accordingly, the superiority of the republicans was no sooner
decisive, than the theatres were closed, and the dramatic poets
silenced. No department of poetry was accounted lawful; but the drama
being altogether unhallowed and abominable, its professors were
persecuted, while others escaped with censure from the pulpit, and
contempt from the rulers. The miserable shifts to which the surviving
actors were reduced during the commonwealth, have been often detailed.
At times they were connived at by the caprice or indolence of their
persecutors; but, in general, so soon as they had acquired any slender
stock of properties, they were beaten, imprisoned, and stripped, at the
pleasure of the soldiery.[2]

The Restoration naturally brought with it a revived taste for those
elegant amusements, which, during the usurpation, had been condemned as
heathenish, or punished as appertaining especially to the favourers of
royalty. To frequent them, therefore, became a badge of loyalty, and a
virtual disavowal of those puritanic tenets which all now agreed in
condemning. The taste of the restored monarch also was decidedly in
favour of the drama. At the foreign courts, which it had been his lot to
visit, the theatre was the chief entertainment; and as amusement was
always his principal pursuit, it cannot be doubted that he often sought
it there. The interest, therefore, which the monarch took in the
restoration of the stage, was direct and personal. Had it not been for
this circumstance, it seems probable that the general audience, for a
time at least, would have demanded a revival of those pieces which had
been most successful before the civil wars; and that Shakespeare,
Massinger, and Fletcher, would have resumed their acknowledged
superiority upon the English stage. But as the theatres were
re-established and cherished by the immediate influence of the
sovereign, and of the court which returned with him from exile, a taste
formed during their residence abroad dictated the nature of
entertainments which were to be presented to them. It is worthy of
remark, that Charles took the models of the two grand departments of the
drama from two different countries.

France afforded the pattern of those tragedies which continued in
fashion for twenty years after the Restoration, and which were called
Rhyming or Heroic Plays. In that country, however, contrary to the
general manners of the people, a sort of stately and precise ceremonial
early took possession of the theatre. The French dramatist was under the
necessity of considering less the situation of the persons of the drama,
than that of the performers who were to represent it before a monarch
and his court. It was not, therefore, sufficient for the author to
consider how human beings would naturally express themselves in the
predicament of the scene; he had the more embarrassing task of so
modifying their expressions of passion and feeling, that they might not
exceed the decorum necessary in the august presence of the _grand
monarque_. A more effectual mode of freezing the dialogue of the drama
could hardly have been devised, than by introducing into the theatre the
etiquette of the drawing-room. That etiquette also, during the reign of
Louis XIV., was of a kind peculiarly forced and unnatural The romances
of Calprenède and Scudéry, those ponderous and unmerciful folios now
consigned to utter oblivion, were in that reign not only universally
read and admired, but supposed to furnish the most perfect models of
gallantry and heroism; although, in the words of an elegant female
author, these celebrated writings are justly described as containing
only "unnatural representations of the passions, false sentiments, false
precepts, false wit, false honour, and false modesty, with a strange
heap of improbable, unnatural incidents, mixed up with true history, and
fastened upon some of the great names of antiquity."[3] Yet upon the
model of such works were framed the court manners of the reign of Louis,
and, in imitation of them, the French tragedy, in which every king was
by prescriptive right a hero, every female a goddess, every tyrant a
fire-breathing chimera, and every soldier an irresistible Amadis; in
which, when perfected, we find lofty sentiments, splendid imagery,
eloquent expression, sound morality, everything but the language of
human passion and human character. In the hands of Corneille, and still
more in those of Racine, much of the absurdity of the original model was
cleared away, and much that was valuable substituted in its stead; but
the plan being fundamentally wrong, the high talents of these authors
unfortunately only tended to reconcile their countrymen to a style of
writing which must otherwise have fallen into contempt. Such as it was,
it rose into high favour at the court of Louis XIV., and was by Charles
introduced upon the English stage. "The favour which heroic plays have
lately found upon our theatres," says our author himself, "have been
wholly derived to them from the countenance and approbation they have
received at court."[4]

The French comedy, although Molière was in the zenith of his reputation,
appears not to have possessed equal charms for the English monarch. The
same restraint of decorum, which prevented the expression of natural
passion in tragedy, prohibited all indelicate licence in comedy.
Charles, probably, was secretly pleased with a system, which cramped the
effusions of the tragic muse, and forbade, as indecorous, those bursts
of rapturous enthusiasm, which might sometimes contain matter unpleasing
to a royal ear.[5] But the merry monarch saw no good reason why the muse
of comedy should be compelled to "dwell in decencies for ever," and did
not feel at all degraded when enjoying a gross pleasantry, or profane
witticism, in company with the mixed mass of a popular audience. The
stage, therefore, resumed more than its original licence under his
auspices. Most of our early plays, being written in a coarse age, and
designed for the amusement of a promiscuous and vulgar audience, were
dishonoured by scenes of coarse and naked indelicacy. The positive
enactments of James, and the grave manners of his son, in some degree
repressed this disgraceful scurrility; and, in the common course of
events, the English stage would have been gradually delivered from this
reproach by the increasing influence of decency and taste.[6] But
Charles II., during his exile, had lived upon a footing of equality with
his banished nobles, and partaken freely and promiscuously in the
pleasure and frolics by which they had endeavoured to sweeten adversity.
To such a court the amusements of the drama would have appeared insipid,
unless seasoned with the libertine spirit which governed their lives,
and which was encouraged by the example of the monarch. Thus it is
acutely argued by Dennis, in reply to Collier, that the depravity of the
theatre, when revived, was owing to that very suppression, which had
prevented its gradual reformation. And just so a muddy stream, if
allowed its free course, will gradually purify itself; but, if dammed up
for a season, and let loose at once, its first torrent cannot fail to be
impregnated with every impurity. The licence of a rude age was thus
revived by a corrupted one; and even those plays which were translated
from the French and Spanish, were carefully seasoned with as much
indelicacy, and double entendre, as was necessary to fit them for the
ear of the wittiest and most profligate of monarchs.

Another remarkable feature in the comedies which succeeded the
Restoration is the structure of their plot, which was not, like that of
the tragedies, formed upon the Parisian model. The English audience had
not patience for the regular comedy of their neighbours, depending upon
delicate turns of expression, and nicer delineation of character. The
Spanish comedy, with its bustle, machinery, disguise, and complicated
intrigue, was much more agreeable to their taste. This preference did
not arise entirely from what the French term the phlegm of our national
character, which cannot be affected but by powerful stimulants. It is
indeed certain, that an Englishman expects his eye, as well as his ear,
to be diverted by theatrical exhibition; but the thirst of novelty was
another and separate reason which affected the style of the revived
drama. The number of new plays represented every season was incredible;
and the authors were compelled to have recourse to that mode of
composition which was most easily executed. Laboured accuracy of
expression, and fine traits of character, joined to an arrangement of
action, which should be at once pleasing, interesting, and probable,
require sedulous study, deep reflection, and long and repeated
correction and revision. But these were not to be expected from a
playwright, by whom three dramas were to be produced in one season; and
in their place were substituted adventures surprises, rencounters,
mistakes, disguises, and escapes, all easily accomplished by the
intervention of sliding panels, closets, veils, masks, large cloaks, and
dark lanthorns. If the dramatist was at a loss for employing these
convenient implements, the fifteen hundred plays of Lope de Vega were at
hand for his instruction; presenting that rapid succession of events,
and those sudden changes in the situation of the personages, which,
according to the noble biographer of the Spanish dramatist, are the
charms by which he interests us so forcibly in his plots.[7] These
Spanish plays had already been resorted to by the authors of the earlier
part of the century. But under the auspices of Charles II., who must
often have witnessed the originals while abroad, and in some instances
by his express command, translations were executed of the best and most
lively Spanish comedies.[8]

The favourite comedies therefore, after the Restoration, were such as
depended rather upon the intricacy than the probability of the plot;
rather upon the vivacity and liveliness, than on the natural expression
of the dialogue; and, finally, rather upon extravagant and grotesque
conception of character, than upon its being pointedly delineated, and
accurately supported through the representation. These particulars, in
which the comedies of Charles the Second's reign differ from the example
set by Shakespeare, Massinger and Beaumont and Fletcher, seem to have
been derived from the Spanish model. But the taste of the age was too
cultivated to follow the stage of Madrid, in introducing, or, to speak
more accurately, in reviving, the character of the _gracioso_, or clown,
upon that of London.[9] Something of foreign manners may be traced in
the licence assumed by valets and domestics in the English comedy; a
freedom which at no time made a part of our national manners, though
something like it may still be traced upon the Continent. These seem to
be the leading characteristics of the comedies of Charles the Second's
reign, in which the rules of the ancients were totally disregarded. It
were to be wished that the authors could have been exculpated from an
heavier charge,--that of assisting to corrupt the nation, by nourishing
and fomenting their evil passions, as well as by indulging and pandering
to their vices.

The theatres, after the Restoration, were limited to two in number; a
restriction perhaps necessary, as the exclusive patent expresses it, in
regard of the extraordinary licentiousness then used in dramatic
representation; but for which no very good reason can be shown, when
they are at least harmless, if not laudable places of amusement. One of
these privileged theatres was placed under the direction of Sir William
Davenant, whose sufferings in the royal cause merited a provision, and
whose taste and talents had been directed towards the drama even during
its proscription. He is said to have introduced moveable scenes upon the
English stage; and, without entering into the dispute of how closely
this is to be interpreted, we are certain that he added much to its
splendour and decoration. His set of performers, which contained the
famous Betterton, and others of great merit, was called the Duke's
Company. The other licensed theatre was placed under the direction of
Thomas Killigrew, much famed by tradition for his colloquial wit, but
the merit of whose good things evaporated so soon as he attempted to
interweave them with comedy.[10] His performers formed what was entitled
the King's Company. With this last theatre Dryden particularly connected
himself, by a contract to be hereafter mentioned. None of his earlier
plays were acted by the Duke's Company, unless those in which he had
received assistance from others, whom he might think as well entitled as
himself to prescribe the place of representation.

Such was the state of the English drama when Dryden became a candidate
for theatrical laurels. So early as the year of the Restoration, he had
meditated a tragedy upon the fate of the Duke of Guise; but this, he has
informed us, was suppressed by the advice of some friends, who told him,
that it was an excellent subject, but not so artificially managed as to
render it fit for the stage. It were to be wished these scenes had been
preserved, since it may be that the very want of artifice, alleged by
the critics of the day, would have recommended them to our more simple
taste. We might at least have learned from them, whether Dryden, in his
first essay, leant to the heroic, or to the ancient English tragedy. But
the scene of Guise's return to Paris, is the only part of the original
sketch which Dryden thought fit to interweave with the play, as acted in
1682; and as that scene is rendered literally from Davila, upon the
principle that, in so remarkable an action, the poet was not at liberty
to change the words actually used by the persons interested, we only
learn from it, that the piece was composed in blank verse, not rhyme.

In the course of the year 1661-2, our author composed the "Wild
Gallant," which was acted about February 1662-3 without success. The
beautiful Countess of Castlemaine, afterwards Duchess of Cleveland,
extended her protection to the unfortunate performance, and received the
incense of the author; who boasts,

  "Posterity will judge by my success,
  I had the Grecian poet's happiness,
  Who, waving plots, found out a better way,--
  Some god descended, and preserved the play."

It was probably by the influence of this royal favourite, that the "Wild
Gallant" was more than once performed before Charles by his own command.
But the author, his piece, and his poetical compliment, were hardly
treated in a Session of the Poets, which appeared about 1670. Nor did
Sir Robert Howard, his associate, escape without his share of ridicule:

  "Sir Robert Howard, called for over and over,
      At length sent in Teague with a packet of news,
  Wherein the sad knight, to his grief did discover
      How Dryden had lately robbed him of his Muse.

  Each man in the court was pleased with the theft,
      Which made the whole family swear and rant,
  Desiring, their Robin in the lurch being left,
      The thief might be punished for his 'Wild Gallant.'

  Dryden, who one would have thought had more wit,
      The censure of every man did disdain,
  Pleading some pitiful rhymes he had writ
      In praise of the Countess of Castlemaine."

The play itself contained too many of those prize-fights of wit, as
Buckingham called them, in which the plot stood absolutely still, while
two of the characters were showing the audience their dexterity at
repartee. This error furnishes matter for a lively scene in the

The "Rival Ladies," acted in 1663, and published in the year following,
was our author's next dramatic essay. It is a tragi-comedy; and the
tragic scenes are executed in rhyme,--a style which Dryden anxiously
defended, in a Dedication addressed to the Earl of Orrery, who had
himself written several heroic plays. He cites against blank verse the
universal practice of the most polished and civilised nations, the
Spanish, the Italian, and the French; enumerates its advantages in
restraining the luxuriance of the poet's imagination, and compelling him
to labour long upon his clearest and richest thoughts: but he qualifies
his general assertion by affirming, that heroic verse ought only to be
applied to heroic situations and personages; and shows to most advantage
in the scenes of argumentation, on which the doing or forbearing some
considerable action should depend. Accordingly, in the "Rival Ladies,"
those scenes of the play which approach to comedy (for it contains none
properly comic) are written in blank verse. The Dedication contains two
remarkable errors: The author mistakes the title of "Ferrex and Porrex,"
a play written by Sackville Lord Buckhurst, and Norton; and he ascribes
to Shakespeare the first introduction of blank verse. The "Rival Ladies"
seems to have been well received, and was probably of some advantage to
the author.

In 1663-4, we find Dryden assisting Sir Robert Howard, who must be
termed his friend, if not his patron, in the composition of a rhyming
play, called the "Indian Queen." The versification of this piece, which
is far more harmonious than that generally used by Howard, shows
evidently, that our author had assiduously corrected the whole play,
though it may be difficult to say how much of it was written by him.
Clifford afterwards upbraided Dryden with having copied his Almanzor
from the character of Montezuma;[11] and it must be allowed, there is a
striking resemblance between these two outrageous heroes, who carry
conquest to any side they choose, and are restrained by no human
consideration, excepting the tears or commands of their mistress. But
whatever share Dryden had in this piece, Sir Robert Howard retained
possession of the title-page without acknowledgment, and Dryden nowhere
gives himself the trouble of reclaiming his property, except in a sketch
of the connection between the "Indian Queen," and "Indian Emperor,"
where he simply states, that he wrote a part of the former. The "Indian
Queen" was acted with very great applause, to which, doubtless, the
scenery and dresses contributed not a little. Moreover, it presented
battles and sacrifices on the stage, aerial demons singing in the air,
and the god of dreams ascending through a trap; the least of which has
often saved a worse tragedy.

The "Indian Queen" having been thus successful, Dryden was encouraged to
engraft upon it another drama, entitled, the "Indian Emperor." It is
seldom that the continuation of a concluded tale is acceptable to the
public. The present case was an exception, perhaps because the
connection between the "Indian Emperor" and its predecessor was neither
close nor necessary. Indeed, the whole persons of the "Indian Queen" are
disposed of by the bowl and dagger, at the conclusion of that tragedy,
excepting Montezuma, who, with a second set of characters, the sons and
daughters of those deceased in the first part, occupies the stage in the
second play. The author might, therefore, have safely left the audience
to discover the plot of the "Indian Emperor," without embarrassing them
with that of the "Indian Queen." But to prevent mistakes, and
principally, I should think, to explain the appearance of three ghosts,
the only persons (if they can be termed such) who have any connection
with the former drama, Dryden took the precaution to print and disperse
an argument of the play, in order, as the "Rehearsal" intimated, to
insinuate into the audience some conception of his plot. The "Indian
Emperor" was probably the first of Dryden's performances which drew upon
him, in an eminent degree, the attention of the public. It was dedicated
to Anne, Duchess of Monmouth, whom long afterward our author styled his
first and best patroness.[12] This lady, in the bloom of youth and
beauty, and married to a nobleman no less the darling of his father than
of the nation, had it in her power effectually to serve Dryden, and
doubtless exerted her influence in procuring him that rank in public
opinion, which is seldom early attained without the sanction of those
who lead the fashion in literature. The Duchess of Monmouth probably
liked in the "Indian Emperor," not only the beauty of the numbers, and
the frequently exquisite turn of the description, but also the
introduction of incantations and apparitions, of which romantic style of
writing she was a professed admirer. The "Indian Emperor" had the most
ample success; and from the time of its representation, till the day of
his death, our author, though often rudely assailed, maintained the very
pinnacle of poetical superiority, against all his contemporaries.

The dreadful fire of London, in 1666, put a temporary stop to theatrical
exhibitions, which were not permitted till the following Christmas. We
may take this opportunity to review the effect which the rise of
Dryden's reputation had upon his private fortune and habits of life.

While our author was the literary assistant of Sir Robert Howard, and
the hired labourer of Herringman the bookseller, we may readily presume
that his pretensions and mode of living were necessarily adapted to that
mode of life, into which he had descended by the unpopularity of his
puritanical connections. Even for some time after his connection with
the theatre, we learn, from a contemporary, that his dress was plain at
least, if not mean, and his pleasures moderate, though not
inelegant.[13] But as his reputation advanced, he naturally glided into
more expensive habits, and began to avail himself of the licence, as
well as to partake of the pleasures, of the time. We learn, from a poem
of his enemy Milbourne, that Dryden's person was advantageous; and that,
in the younger part of his life, he was distinguished by the emulous
favour of the fair sex.[14] And although it would not be edifying, were
it possible, to trace instances of his success in gallantry, we may
barely notice his intrigue with Mrs. Reeve, a beautiful actress, who
performed in many of his plays. This amour was probably terminated
before the fair lady's retreat to a cloister, which seems to have taken
place before the representation of Otway's "Don Carlos," in 1676.[15]
Their connection is alluded to in the "Rehearsal," which was acted in
1671. Bayes, talking of Amarillis, actually represented by Mrs. Reeve,
says, "Ay, 'tis a pretty little rogue; she's my mistress: I knew her
face would set off armour extremely; and to tell you true, I writ that
part only for her." There follows an obscure allusion to some gallantry
of our author in another quarter. But Dryden's amours were interrupted,
if not terminated, in 1665, by his marriage.

Our author's friendship with Sir Robert Howard and his increasing
reputation, had introduced him to the family of the Earl of Berkshire,
father to his friend. In the course of this intimacy, the poet gained
the affections of Lady Elizabeth Howard, the Earl's eldest daughter,
whom he soon afterwards married.[16] The lampoons, by which Dryden's
private character was assailed in all points, allege, that this marriage
was formed under circumstances dishonourable to the lady. But of this
there is no evidence; while the malignity of the reporters is evident
and undisguised. We may however believe, that the match was not
altogether agreeable to the noble family of Berkshire. Dryden, it is
true, might, in point of descent, be admitted to form pretensions to
Lady Elizabeth Howard; but his family, though honourable, was in a kind
of disgrace, from the part which Sir Gilbert Pickering and Sir John
Driden had taken in the civil wars: while the Berkshire family were
remarkable for their attachment to the royal cause. Besides, many of the
poet's relations were engaged in trade; and the alliance of his
brothers-in-law, the tobacconist and stationer, if it was then formed,
could not sound dignified in the ears of a Howard. Add to this a very
important consideration,--Dryden had no chance of sharing the wealth of
his principal relations, which might otherwise have been received as an
atonement for the guilty confiscations by which it was procured. He had
quarrelled with them, or they with him; his present possession was a
narrow independence; and his prospects were founded upon literary
success, always precarious, and then connected with circumstances of
personal abasement, which rendered it almost disreputable. A noble
family might be allowed to regret, that one of their members was chiefly
to rely for the maintenance of her husband, her family, and herself,
upon the fees of dedications, and occasional pieces of poetry, and the
uncertain profits of the theatre.

Yet, as Dryden's manners were amiable, his reputation high, and his
moral character unexceptionable the Earl of Berkshire was probably soon
reconciled to the match; and Dryden seems to have resided with his
father-in-law for some time, since it is from the Earl's seat of
Charlton, in Wiltshire, that he dates the introduction to the "_Annus
Mirabilis_," published in the end of 1667.[17]

So honourable a connection might have been expected to have advanced our
author's prospects in a degree beyond what he experienced; but his
father-in-law was poor, considering his rank, and had a large family, so
that the portion of Lady Elizabeth was inconsiderable. Nor was her want
of fortune supplied by patronage, or family influence. Dryden's
preferment, as poet laureate, was due to, and probably obtained by, his
literary character; nor did he ever receive any boon suitable to his
rank, as son-in-law to an earl. But, what was worst of all, the parties
did not find mutual happiness in the engagement they had formed. It is
difficult for a woman of a violent temper and weak intellects, and such
the lady seems to have been, to endure the apparently causeless
fluctuation of spirits incident to one doomed to labour incessantly in
the feverish exercise of the imagination. Unintentional neglect, and the
inevitable relaxation, or rather sinking of spirit, which follows
violent mental exertion, are easily misconstrued into capricious
rudeness, or intentional offence; and life is embittered by mutual
accusation, not the less intolerable because reciprocally just. The wife
of one who is to gain his livelihood by poetry, or by any labour (if any
there be) equally exhausting, must either have taste enough to relish
her husband's performances, or good-nature sufficient to pardon his
infirmities. It was Dryden's misfortune, that Lady Elizabeth had neither
the one nor the other; and I dismiss the disagreeable subject by
observing, that on no one occasion, when a sarcasm against matrimony
could be introduced, has our author failed to season it with such
bitterness as spoke an inward consciousness of domestic misery.[18]

During the period when the theatres were closed, Dryden seems to have
written and published the "_Annus Mirabilis_" of which we spoke at the
close of the last Section. But he was also then labouring upon his
"Essay of Dramatic Poesy." It was a singular trait in the character of
our author, that by whatever motive he was directed in his choice of a
subject, and his manner of treating it, he was upon all occasions, alike
anxious to persuade the public, that both the one and the other were the
object of his free choice, founded upon the most rational grounds of
preference. He had, therefore, no sooner seriously bent his thoughts to
the stage, and distinguished himself as a composer of heroic plays, than
he wrote his "Essay of Dramatic Poesy," in which he assumes, that the
drama was the highest department of poetry; and endeavours to prove,
that rhyming or heroic tragedies are the most legitimate offspring of
the drama.

The subject is agitated in a dialogue between Lord Buckhurst, Sir
Charles Sedley, Sir Robert Howard, and the author himself, under the
feigned names of Eugenius, Lisideius, Crites, and Neander. This
celebrated Essay was first published in the end of 1667, or beginning of
1668. The author revised it with an unusual degree of care, and
published it anew in 1684, with a Dedication to Lord Buckhurst.

In the introduction of the dialogue, our author artfully solicits the
attention of the public to the improved versification, in which he
himself so completely excelled all his contemporaries; and contrasts the
rugged lines and barbarous conceits of Cleveland with the more modern
style of composition, where the thoughts were moulded into easy and
significant words, superfluities of expression retrenched, and the rhyme
rendered so properly a part of the verse, that it was led and guided by
the sense, which was formerly sacrificed in attaining it. This point
being previously settled, a dispute occurs concerning the alleged
superiority of the ancient classic models of dramatic composition. This
is resolutely denied by all the speakers, excepting Crites; the
regulation of the unities is condemned, as often leading to greater
absurdities than those they were designed to obviate; and the classic
authors are censured for the cold and trite subjects of their comedies,
the bloody and horrible topics of many of their tragedies, and their
deficiency in painting the passion of love. From all this, it is justly
gathered, that the moderns, though with less regularity, possess a
greater scope for invention, and have discovered, as it were, a new
perfection in writing. This debated point being abandoned by Crites (or
Howard), the partisan of the ancients, a comparison between the French
and English drama is next introduced. Sedley, the celebrated wit and
courtier, pleads the cause of the French, an opinion which perhaps was
not singular among the favourites of Charles II. But the rest of the
speakers unite in condemning the extolled simplicity of the French
plots, as actual barrenness, compared to the variety and copiousness of
the English stage; and their authors' limiting the attention of the
audience and interest of the piece to a single principal personage, is
censured as poverty of imagination, when opposed to the diversification
of characters exhibited in the _dramatis personae_ of the English poets.
Shakespeare and Jonson are then brought forward, and contrasted with the
French dramatists, and with each other. The former is extolled, as the
man of all modern, and perhaps ancient, poets, who had the largest and
most comprehensive soul, and intuitive knowledge of human nature; and
the latter, as the most learned and judicious writer which any theatre
ever had. But to Shakespeare, Dryden objects, that his comic sometimes
degenerates into _clenches_, and his serious into bombast; to Jonson,
the sullen and saturnine character of his genius, his borrowing from the
ancients, and the insipidity of his latter plays. The examen leads to
the discussion of a point, in which Dryden had differed with Sir Robert
Howard. This was the use of rhyme in tragedy. Our author had, it will be
remembered, maintained the superiority of rhyming plays, in the
Introduction to the "Rival Ladies." Sir Robert Howard, the catalogue of
whose virtues did not include that of forbearance made a direct answer
to the arguments used in that Introduction; and while he studiously
extolled the plays of Lord Orrery, as affording an exception to his
general sentence against rhyming plays, he does not extend the
compliment to Dryden, whose defence of rhyme was expressly dedicated to
that noble author. Dryden, not much pleased, perhaps, at being left
undistinguished in the general censure passed upon rhyming plays by his
friend and ally, retaliates in the Essay, by placing in the mouth of
Crites the arguments urged by Sir Robert Howard, and replying to them in
the person of Neander. To the charge, that rhyme is unnatural, in
consequence of the inverted arrangement of the words necessary to
produce it, he replies, that, duly ordered, it may be natural in itself,
and therefore not unnatural in a play; and that, if the objection be
further insisted upon, it is equally conclusive against blank verse, or
measure without rhyme. To the objection founded on the formal and
uniform recurrence of the measure, he alleges the facility of varying
it, by throwing the cadence upon different parts of the line, by
breaking it into hemistichs, or by running the sense into another line,
so as to make art and order appear as loose and free as nature.[19]
Dryden even contends, that, for variety's sake, the pindaric measure
might be admitted, of which Davenant set an example in the "Siege of
Rhodes." But this licence, which was probably borrowed from the Spanish
stage, has never succeeded elsewhere, except in operas. Finally, it is
urged, that rhyme, the most noble verse, is alone fit for tragedies, the
most noble species of composition; that, far from injuring a scene, in
which quick repartee is necessary, it is the last perfection of wit to
put it into numbers; and that, even where a trivial and common
expression is placed, from necessity, in the mouth of an important
character, it receives, from the melody of versification, a dignity
befitting the person that is to pronounce it. With this keen and
animated defence of a mode of composition, in which he felt his own
excellence, Dryden concludes the "Essay of Dramatic Poesy."

The publication of this criticism, the first that contained an express
attempt to regulate dramatic writing, drew general attention, and gave
some offence. Sir Robert Howard felt noways flattered at being made,
through the whole dialogue, the champion of unsuccessful opinions: and a
partiality to the depreciated blank verse seems to have been hereditary
in his family.[20] He therefore hasted to assert his own opinion against
that of Dryden, in the preface to one of his plays, called the "Duke of
Lerma," published in the middle of the year 1668. It is difficult for
two friends to preserve their temper in a dispute of this nature; and
there may be reason to believe, that some dislike to the alliance of
Dryden, as a brother-in-law, mingled with the poetical jealousy of Sir
Robert Howard.[21] The Preface to the "Duke of Lerma" is written in the
tone of a man of quality and importance, who is conscious of stooping
beneath his own dignity, and neglecting his graver avocations, by
engaging in a literary dispute. Dryden was not likely, of many men, to
brook this tone of affected superiority. He retorted upon Sir Robert
Howard very severely, in a tract, entitled, the "Defence of the Essay on
Dramatic Poesy," which he prefixed to the second edition of the "Indian
Emperor," published in 1668. In this piece, the author mentions his
antagonist as master of more than twenty legions of arts and sciences,
in ironical allusion to Sir Robert's coxcombical affectation of
universal knowledge, which had already exposed him to the satire of
Shadwell.[22] He is also described in reference to some foolish
appearance in the House of Commons, as having maintained a contradiction
_in terminis_, in the face of three hundred persons. Neither does Dryden
neglect to hold up to ridicule the slips in Latin and English grammar,
which marked the offensive Preface to the "Duke of Lerma." And although
he concludes, that he honoured his adversary's parts and person as much
as any man living, and had so many particular obligations to him, that
he should be very ungrateful not to acknowledge them to the world, yet
the personal and contemptuous severity of the whole piece must have cut
to the heart so proud a man as Sir Robert Howard. This quarrel between
the baronet and the poet, who was suspected of having crutched-up many
of his lame performances, furnished food for lampoon and amusement to
the indolent wits of the day. But the breach between the
brothers-in-law, though wide, proved fortunately not irreconcilable; and
towards the end of Dryden's literary career, we find him again upon
terms of friendship with the person by whom he had been befriended at
its commencement.[23] Edward Howard, who, it appears, had entered as
warmly as his brother into the contest with Dryden about rhyming
tragedies, also seems to have been reconciled to our poet; at least, he
pronounced a panegyric on his translation of Virgil before it left the
press, in a passage which is also curious, from the author ranking in
the same line "the two elaborate poems of Milton and Blackmore."[24]

In testimony of total amnesty, the "Defence of the Essay" was cancelled;
and it must be rare indeed to meet with an original edition of it, since
Mr. Malone had never seen one.[25]

Dryden's fame, as an author, was doubtless exalted by the "Essay of
Dramatic Poesy;" which showed, that he could not only write plays, but
defend them when written. His circumstances rendered it necessary, that
he should take the full advantage of his reputation to meet the
increasing expense of a wife and family; and it was probably shortly
after the Essay appeared, that our author entered into his memorable
contract with the King's Company of players. The precise terms of this
agreement have been settled by Mr. Malone from unquestionable evidence,
after being the subject of much doubt and uncertainty. It is now
certain, that, confiding in the fertility of his genius, and the
readiness of his pen, Dryden undertook to write for the King's house no
less than three plays in the course of the year. In consideration of
this engagement, he was admitted to hold one share and a quarter in the
profits of the theatre, which was stated by the managers to have
produced him three or four hundred pounds, _communibus annis_. Either,
however, the players became sensible, that, by urging their pensioner to
continued drudgery, they in fact lessened the value of his labour, or
Dryden felt himself unequal to perform the task he had undertaken; for
the average number of plays which he produced, was only about half that
which had been contracted for. The company, though not without grudging,
paid the poet the stipulated share of profit; and the curious document,
recovered by Mr. Malone, not only establishes the terms of the bargain,
but that the players, although they complained of the laziness of their
indented author, were jealous of their right to his works, and anxious
to retain possession of him, and of them.[26] It would have been well
for Dryden's reputation, and perhaps not less productive to the company,
had the number of his plays been still further abridged; for, while we
admire the facility that could produce five or six plays in three years,
we lament to find it so often exerted to the sacrifice of the more
essential qualities of originality and correctness.

Dryden had, however, made his bargain, and was compelled to fulfil it
the best he might. As his last tragic piece, the "Indian Emperor," had
been eminently successful, he was next to show the public, that his
talents were not limited to the buskin; and accordingly, late in 1667,
was represented the "Maiden Queen," a tragi-comedy, in which, although
there is a comic plot separate from the tragic design, our author boasts
to have retained all that regularity and symmetry of parts which the
dramatic laws require. The tragic scenes of the "Maiden Queen" were
deservedly censured, as falling beneath the "Indian Emperor." They have
neither the stately march of the heroic dialogue, nor, what we would be
more pleased to have found in them, the truth of passion, and natural
colouring, which characterised the old English drama. But the credit of
the piece was redeemed by the comic part, which is a more light and airy
representation of the fashionable and licentious manners of the time
than Dryden could afterwards attain, excepting in "Marriage à la Mode."
The king, whose judgment on this subject was unquestionable graced the
"Maiden Queen" with the title of _his play_; and Dryden insinuates that
it would have been dedicated to him, had he had confidence to follow the
practice of the French poets in like cases. At least, he avoided the
solecism of inscribing the king's own play to a subject; and, instead of
a dedication, we have a preface, in which the sovereign's favourable
opinion of the piece is studiously insisted upon. Neither was the praise
of Charles conferred without critical consideration; for he justly
censured the concluding scene, in which Celadon and Florimel treat of
their marriage in very light terms in presence of the Queen, who stands
by, an idle spectator. This insult to Melpomene, and preference of her
comic sister, our author acknowledges to be a fault, but seemingly only
in deference to the royal opinion; for he instantly adds, that, in his
own judgment, the scene was necessary to make the piece go off smartly,
and was, in the estimation of good judges, the most diverting of the
whole comedy.

Encouraged by the success of the "Maiden Queen," Dryden proceeded to
revive the "Wild Gallant;" and, in deference to his reputation, it seems
now to have been more favourably received than at its first

The "Maiden Queen" was followed by the "Tempest," an alteration of
Shakespeare's play of the same name, in which Dryden assisted Sir
William Davenant. It seems probable that Dryden furnished the language,
and Davenant the plan of the new characters introduced. They do but
little honour to his invention, although Dryden has highly extolled it
in his preface. The idea of a counterpart to Shakespeare's plot, by
introducing a man who had never seen a woman, as a contrast to a woman
who had never seen a man, and by furnishing Caliban with a sister
monster, seems hardly worthy of the delight with which Dryden says he
filled up the characters so sketched. In mixing his tints, Dryden did
not omit that peculiar colouring, in which his age delighted. Miranda's
simplicity is converted into indelicacy, and Dorinda talks the language
of prostitution before she has ever seen a man. But the play seems to
have succeeded to the utmost wish of the authors. It was brought out in
the Duke's house, of which Davenant was manager, with all the splendour
of scenic decoration, of which he was inventor. The opening scene is
described as being particularly splendid, and the performance of the
spirits, "with mops and mows," excited general applause. Davenant died
before the publication of this piece, and his memory is celebrated in
the preface.

Our author's next play, if it could be properly called his, was "Sir
Martin Mar-all." This was originally a translation of "_L'Etourdi_" of
Molière, executed by the Duke of Newcastle, famous for his loyalty, and
his skill of horsemanship. Dryden availed himself of the noble
translator's permission to improve and bring "Sir Martin Mar-all"
forward for his own benefit. It was attended with the most complete
success, being played four times at court, and above thirty times at the
theatre in Lincoln's-Inn Fields; a run chiefly attributed to the
excellent performance of Nokes, who represented Sir Martin.[27] The
"Tempest" and "Sir Martin Mar-all" were both acted by the Duke's
Company, probably because Dryden was in the one assisted by Sir William
Davenant the manager, and because the other was entered in the name of
the Duke of Newcastle. Of these two plays, "Sir Martin Mar-all" was
printed anonymously in 1668. It did not appear with Dryden's name until
1697. The "Tempest," though acted before "Sir Martin Mar-all," was not
printed until 1669-70. They are in the present, as in former editions,
arranged according to the date of publication, which gives the
precedence to "Sir Martin Mar-all," though last acted.

The "Evening's Love, or the Mock Astrologer," was Dryden's next
composition. It is an imitation of "_Le Feint Astrologue_" of [T.]
Corneille, which is founded upon Calderon's "_El Astrologo Fingido_."
Several of the scenes are closely imitated from Molière's "_Dépit
Amoureux_." Having that lively bustle, intricacy of plot, and surprising
situation, which the taste of the time required, and being enlivened by
the characters of Wildblood and Jacinta, the "Mock Astrologer" seems to
have met a favourable reception in 1668, when it first appeared. It was
printed in the same, or in the following year, and inscribed to the Duke
of Newcastle, to whom Dryden had been indebted for the sketch of "Sir
Martin Mar-all." It would seem, that this gallant and chivalrous peer
was then a protector of Dryden, though he afterwards seems more
especially to have patronised his enemy Shadwell; upon whose _northern_
dedications, inscribed to the duke and his lady, our author is
particularly severe. In the preface to the "Evening's Love," Dryden
anxiously justifies himself from the charge of encouraging libertinism,
by crownings rake and coquette with success. But after he has arrayed
all the authority of the ancient and modern poets, and has pleaded that
these licentious characters are only made happy after being reclaimed in
the last scene, we may be permitted to think, that more proper heroes
may be selected than those, who, to merit the reward assigned them, must
announce a violent and sudden change from the character they have
sustained during five acts; and the attempt to shroud himself under
authority of others, is seldom resorted to by Dryden when a cause is
otherwise tenable. In this preface also he justified himself from the
charge of plagiarism by showing that the mere story is the least part
either of the labour of the poet, or of the graces of the poem; quoting
against his critics the expression of the king, who had said, he wished
those, who charged Dryden with theft, would always steal him plays like

The "Royal Martyr" was acted in 1668-9, and printed in 1670. It is, in
every respect, a proper heroic tragedy, and had a large share of the
applause with which those pieces were then received. It abounds in
bombast, but is not deficient in specimens of the sublime and of the
tender. The preface is distinguished by that tone of superiority, which
Dryden often assumed over the critics of the time. Their general
observations he cut short, by observing, that those who make them
produce nothing of their own, or only what is more ridiculous than any
thing they reprehend. Special objections are refuted, by an appeal to
classical authority. Thus the couplet,

  "And he, who servilely creeps after sense,
  Is safe, but ne'er will reach an excellence,"

is justified from the "_serpit humi tutus_" of Horace; and, by a
still more forced derivation, the line,

  "And follow fate which does too fast pursue,"

is said to be borrowed from Virgil,

  "_Eludit gyro interior sequiturque sequentem_."

And he concludes by exulting, that, though he might have written
nonsense, none of his critics had been so happy as to discover it. These
indications of superiority, being thought to savour of vanity, had their
share in exciting the storm of malevolent criticism, of which Dryden
afterwards so heavily complained. "Tyrannic Love" is dedicated to the
Duke of Monmouth; but it would seem the compliment was principally
designed to his duchess. The Duke, whom Dryden was afterwards to
celebrate in very different strains, is however compared to an Achilles,
or Rinaldo, who wanted only a Homer, or Tasso, to give him the fame due
to him.

It was in this period of prosperity, of general reputation, of
confidence in his genius, and perhaps of presumption, (if that word can
be applied to Dryden,) that he produced those two very singular plays,
the First and Second Parts of the "Conquest of Granada." In these models
of the pure heroic drama, the ruling sentiments of love and honour are
carried to the most passionate extravagance. And, to maintain the
legitimacy of this style of composition, our author, ever ready to
vindicate with his pen to be right, that which his timid critics
murmured at as wrong, threw the gauntlet down before the admirers of the
ancient English school, in the Epilogue to the "Second Part of the
Conquest of Granada," and in the Defence of that Epilogue. That these
plays might be introduced to the public with a solemnity corresponding
in all respects to models of the rhyming tragedy, they were inscribed to
the Duke of York, and prefaced by an "Essay upon Heroic Plays." They
were performed in 1669-70, and received with unbounded applause. Before
we consider the effect which they, and similar productions, produced on
the public, together with the progress and decay of the taste for heroic
dramas, we may first notice the effect which the ascendency of our
author's reputation had produced upon his situation and fortunes.

Whether we judge of the rank which Dryden held in society by the
splendour of his titled and powerful friends, or by his connections
among men of genius, we must consider him as occupying at this time, as
high a station in the very foremost circle as literary reputation could
gain for its owner. Independent of the notice with which he was honoured
by Charles himself, the poet numbered among his friends most of the
distinguished nobility. The great Duke of Ormond had already begun that
connection which subsisted between Dryden and three generations of the
house of Butler; Thomas Lord Clifford, one of the Cabal ministry, was
uniform in patronising the poet, and appears to have been active in
introducing him to the king's favour; the Duke of Newcastle, as we have
seen, loved him sufficiently to present him with a play for the stage;
the witty Earl of Dorset, then Lord Buckhurst, and Sir Charles Sedley,
admired in that loose age for the peculiar elegance of his loose poetry,
were his intimate associates, as is evident from the turn of the "Essay
of Dramatic Poesy," where they are speakers; Wilmot Earl of Rochester
(soon to act a very different part) was then anxious to vindicate
Dryden's writings, to mediate for him with those who distributed the
royal favour, and was thus careful, not only of his reputation, but his
fortune. In short, the first author of what was then held the first
style of poetry, was sought for by all among the great and gay who
wished to maintain some character for literary taste; a description
which included all of the court of Charles whom nature had not
positively incapacitated from such pretension. It was then Dryden
enjoyed those genial nights described in the dedication of the
"Assignation," when discourse was neither too serious nor too light, but
always pleasant, and for the most part instructive; the raillery neither
too sharp upon the present, nor too censorious upon the absent; and the
cups such only as raised the conversation of the night, without
disturbing the business of the morrow. He had not yet experienced the
disadvantages attendant on such society, or learned how soon literary
eminence becomes the object of detraction, of envy, of injury, even from
those who can best feel its merit, if they are discouraged by dissipated
habits from emulating its flight, or hardened by perverted feeling
against loving its possessors.

But, besides the society of these men of wit and pleasure, Dryden
enjoyed the affection and esteem of the ingenious Cowley, who wasted his
brilliant talents in the unprofitable paths of metaphysical poetry; of
Waller and of Denham, who had done so much for English versification; of
Davenant, as subtle as Cowley, and more harmonious than Denham, who,
with a happier model, would probably have excelled both. Dryden was also
known to Milton, though it may be doubted whether they justly
appreciated the talents of each other. Of all the men of genius at this
period, whose claims to immortality our age has admitted, Butler alone
seems to have been the adversary of our author's reputation.[28]

While Dryden was thus generally known and admired, the advancement of
his fortune bore no equal progress to the splendour of his literary
fame. Something was, however, done to assist it. The office of royal
historiographer had become vacant in 1666 by the decease of James
Howell, and in 1668 the death of Davenant opened the situation of
poet-laureate. These two offices, with a salary of £200 paid quarterly,
and the celebrated annual butt of canary, were conferred upon Dryden
18th August 1670.[29] The grant bore a retrospect to the term after
Davenant's demise, and is declared to be to "John Dryden, master of
arts, in consideration of his many acceptable services theretofore done
to his present Majesty, and from an observation of his learning and
eminent abilities, and his great skill and elegant style, both in verse
and prose."[30] Thus was our author placed at the head of the literary
class of his countrymen, so far as that high station could be conferred
by the favour of the monarch.

If we compute Dryden's share in the theatre at £300 annually, which is
lower than it was rated by the actors in their petition;[31] if we make,
at the same time, some allowance for those presents which authors of
that time received upon presenting dedications, or occasional pieces of
poetry; if we recollect, that Dryden had a small landed property, and
that his wife, Lady Elizabeth had probably some fortune or allowance,
however trifling, from her family,--I think we will fall considerably
under the mark in computing the poet's income, during this period of
prosperity, at £600 or £700 annually; a sum more adequate to procure all
the comforts, and many of the luxuries of life, than thrice the amount
at present. We must, at the same time, recollect that though Dryden is
nowhere censured for extravagance, poets are seldom capable of minute
economy, and that Lady Elizabeth was by education, and perhaps by
nature, unfitted for supplying her husband's deficiencies. These halcyon
days, too, were but of short duration. The burning of the theatre, in
1670,[32] greatly injured the poet's income from that quarter; his
pension, like other appointments of the household establishment of
Charles II., was very irregularly paid; and thus, if his income was
competent in amount, it was precarious and uncertain.

Leaving Dryden for the present in the situation which we have described,
and which he occupied during the most fortunate period of his life, the
next Section may open with an account of the public taste at this time,
and of the revolution in it which shortly took place.


[1] Malone's "History of the Stage."

[2] [Although criticism of the purely literary kind has been as much as
possible avoided in these notes, it seems necessary to say a few words
here to put the reader on his guard. Scott's acquaintance with the
English drama was extensive, but he was not equally well acquainted with
the French, and (as almost all persons in France as well as in England
were till recently) was all but ignorant of French drama before
Corneille The attribution of the French classical drama to the Scudéry
romance and the influence of Louis XIV. is entirely erroneous. That
drama was introduced by Jodelle, the dramatic poet of the Pléiade in the
middle of the sixteenth century, and was strictly fashioned on the model
of Seneca. Successive improvements, culminating in those of Corneille,
were introduced in it, but its main lines continued the same. Scott has
also left out of sight a very important element in the constitution of
the English heroic play. When Davenant before the Restoration obtained
Cromwell's permission to reintroduce dramatic entertainments, if not
plays, music necessarily formed the chief part of the performance. It
was in fact an opera, and operatic peculiarities remained after all
restriction had been taken off. Scott assigns on the whole far too much
influence to the French drama and to the personal predilection of
Charles. The subject is a large one, and has never been fully handled,
but readers may be referred to the present editor's _Dryden_, pp. 18-20;
and still more to an essay on Sir George Etherege by Mr. E.W. Gosse in
the _Cornhill Magazine_ for March 1881.--ED.]

[3] _Haud inexperta loquitur._ "I have," she continues, "(and yet I am
still alive,) drudged through Le Grand Cyrus, in twelve huge volumes;
Cleopatra, in eight or ten; Polexander, Ibrahim, Clélie, and some
others, whose names, as well as all the rest of them, I have
forgotten."--_Letter of Mrs. Chapone to Mrs. Carter_.

[4] Dedication to the "Indian Emperor."

[5] In this particular a watch was kept over the stage. "The Maid's
Tragedy," which turns upon the seduction of Evadne by a licentious and
profligate king, was prohibited during the reign of Charles II., as
admitting certain unfavourable applications. The moral was not

    "on lustful kings,
  Unlooked-for sudden deaths from heaven are sent."

See Cibber's _Apology_, p. 199. Waller, in compliment to the court,
wrote a 5th Act, in which that admired drama is terminated less

[6] It was a part of the duty of the master of the revels to read over
and correct the improprieties of such plays as were to be brought
forward. Several instances occur, in Sir Henry Herbert's Office-book, of
the exercise of his authority in this point. See Malone's _History of
the Stage_.

[7] Lord Holland's "Life of Lope de Vega," p. 128.

[8] The "Wild Gallant," which Charles commanded to be performed before
him more than once, was of the class of Spanish comedies. The "Maiden
Queen," which the witty monarch honoured with the title of _his play_,
is in the same division. Sir Samuel Tuke's "Adventures of Five Hours,"
and Crowne's "Sir Courtly Nice," were both translated from the Spanish
by the king's express recommendation.

[9] The _gracioso_ or buffoon, according to Lord Holland, held an
intermediate character between a spectator and a character in the play;
interrupting with his remarks, at one time, the performance, of which he
forms an essential, but very defective part in another. His part was, I
presume, partly written, partly extempore. Something of the kind was
certainly known upon our stage. Wilson and Tarleton, in their capacity
of clowns, entered freely into a contest of wit with the spectators,
which was not at all held inconsistent with their having a share in the
performance. Nor was tragedy exempted from their interference. Hall,
after telling us of a tragic representation, informs us,

  "Now least such frightful showes of fortunes fall,
  And bloudy tyrants' rage, should chance appall
  The dead-struck audience, 'midst the silent rout
  Comes leaping in a selfe-misformed lout,
  And laughes, and grins, and frames his mimick face,
  And justles straight into the prince's place:
  Then doth the theatre echo all aloud
  With gladsome noyse of that applauding croud.
  A goodly hoch-poch, when vile russetings
  Are matcht with monarchs and with mighty kings."

This extemporal comic part seems to have been held essential to dramatic
representation, in most countries in Europe, during the infancy of the
art. Something of the same kind is still retained in the lower kinds of
popular exhibitions; and the clowns to the shows of tumbling and
horsemanship, with my much-respected friend Mr. Punch in a puppet-show,
bear a pretty close resemblance to the _gracioso_ of the Spaniards, the
_arlequino_ of the Italians, and the clown of the ancient English drama.
See Malone's _History of the Stage._

[10] [This is at least not true of the "Parson's Wedding."--ED.]

[11] Notes on Mr. Dryden's Poems, 1687.

[12] Preface to "King Arthur."

[13] "I remember," (says a correspondent of the 'Gentleman's Magazine,'
for 1745), "plain John Dryden, before he paid his court with success to
the great, in one uniform clothing of Norwich drugget. I have eat tarts
with him and Madam Reeve at the Mulberry Garden, when our author
advanced to a sword and a Chadreux wig."--Page 99 [This letter is a
famous _crux_ in the biography of Dryden. It has been suggested that the
writer was Southerne, but it is impossible to make things tally. As
Dryden certainly had paid his court to the great by 1670, if not by
1665, there is the almost insuperable difficulty of supposing that the
writer could have associated with Dryden in parties of pleasure
seventy-five years before date--a difficulty all the more difficult in
that he only claims to be in his eighty-seventh year. It would be worthy
of little attention, if the eager assailants of Dryden's moral character
had not sought to see evidence of the deepest turpitude in this
tart-eating with Mrs. Reeve and the anonymous letter-writer.--ED.]

[14] He describes him as,

  "Still smooth, as when, adorned with youthful pride,
  For thy dear sake the blushing virgins died,
  When the kind gods of wit and love combined,
  And with large gifts thy yielding soul refined."

[15] The epilogue has these lines:

  "But now if by my suit you'll not be won,
  You know what your unkindness oft has done,--
  I'll e'en forsake the playhouse, and turn Nun."

[16] [Scott's account of the marriage is incorrect in one or two
particulars, and incomplete in others. It took place on the 1st of
December 1663, at St. Swithin's, and the licence, dated the day before,
removes all idea of a clandestine match or of family disapproval.

"Ultimo Novembris 1663

[Sidenote: Juratus Hen: Smyth: Jun:]

Which day appeared personally John Driden of St. Clemt. Danes in the
County of Midd Esqr aged about 30ty yeeres and a Batchelor and alledged
that hee intendeth to marry with Dame Elizabeth Howard of St. Martin in
the Fields in the County aforesaid aged about 25 yeeres with the consent
of her Father Thomas Earle of Berke not knowing nor believing any
impediment to hinder the intended marriage of the truth of the prmisses
he made faith and prayed Licence for them to bee married in the parish
church of St. Swithins London." [Transcriber's note: spelling as in the

While, however, this entry, discovered since Scott wrote, clears up one
part of the story, another discovery has been thought to darken it
again. The following letter from Lady Elizabeth Howard appears in the
letters of Philip, second Earl of Chesterfield:--

"_From the_ Lady Elizabeth Howard _Daughter to the_ Earle of Barksshire.


"My LORD,--I received yours, though not without great trouble, but am
not guilty of any thing you lay to my charge, nor will I ever alter from
the expressions I have formerly made, therefore I hope you will not be
so unjust as to beleive all that the world sayes of mee, but rather
credit my protestation of never having named you to my friends, being
allwayes carefull of that for my own sake as well as yours; and
therefore let it not be in the power of any, nor of your own
inclinations, to make mee less,

Your very humble Servant.

"If you will meet mee in the Old Exchange, about six a clock, I will
justify my selfe."--_Letters of Philip, second Earl of Chesterfield_,
1829, p. 95. This was the same Earl of Chesterfield to whom Dryden
dedicated the _Georgics_ thirty years later.

As Dryden's detractors have been nearly as anxious to blacken his wife's
character as his own, they have seized on this letter to confirm the
reckless and random assertions of contemporary libellers, that her
reputation was questionable. The matter may be left to readers to
decide,--I can see nothing in the phrases necessarily implying any
improper intimacy.

Perhaps it is not superfluous to observe that Scott has not shown his
accustomed judgment and knowledge of the seventeenth century in his
remark about the Howards and the tobacconists. The separation between
classes, as such, was indeed sharp; but it was probably rather more than
less usual then than now for scions of noble and gentle families to go
into retail trade. It may be added that the evidence of a quarrel
between Dryden and his own family is far from strong, and that one of
the causes assigned by Scott for that quarrel, the change of spelling,
is very dubious as a matter of fact. It has been seen that "Driden"
appears in the licence, and it is not certain that the poet invented the
_y_, or first used it.

Very shortly after the marriage occurs the first mention of Dryden of a
personal kind. Pepys writes, under date February 3d, 1664: "In Covent
Garden to-night at the great coffee-house, where Dryden the poet I knew
at Cambridge and all the wits of the town."--ED.]

[17] [To give exact dates, the preface to Sir R. Howard is dated
November 10th, 1666. The poem appeared immediately afterwards. Pepys
bought it on the 2d of February, and pronounced it "a very good poem."
Some other dates and facts of a more precise kind than those in the text
may be given here. Dryden left London in the summer of 1665, either from
dread of the plague, or because the playhouses were shut. The interval
of eighteen months seems to have been wholly spent at Charlton, and
Charles Dryden, his eldest son, was born during this time, though the
precise date is not known. Charlton is near Malmesbury in Wiltshire, and
as Dryden afterwards speaks of himself as possessed of some property in
that county, it has been reasonably conjectured that it was in virtue of
a settlement on his wife. But if so, it cannot have been freehold
property of Lord Berkshire's, as the poet says that he holds of the
Hydes. Lady Elizabeth had received a considerable grant (£3000) from the
Crown in recognition of her father's services, but it is not certain
that it was ever paid. No London domicile of his is known except the
house in Gerrard Street, now marked with a plate by the Society of Arts.
There is a house--now subdivided--in Fetter Lane which also has a plate
(the successor of a stone inscription) stating that Dryden lived there.
No biographer takes notice of this, and the topographers who do notice
it do not believe the story. If there be any foundation for it, the
period of his residence must probably have been before his marriage.--

[18] [I venture to think this last remark overstated. Sarcasms on
matrimony were the fashion, and Dryden followed it. The evidence of
mutual unhappiness is almost _nil_.--ED.]

[19] Sandford, a most judicious actor, is said, by Cibber, cautiously to
have observed this rule, in order to avoid surfeiting the audience by
the continual recurrence of rhyme.

[20] The Honourable Edward Howard, Sir Robert's brother, expresses
himself in the preface to the "Usurper," a play Published in 1668, "not
insensible to the disadvantage it may receive passing into the world
upon the naked feet of verse, with other works that have their measures
adorned with the trappings of rhyme, which, however they have succeeded
in wit or design, is still thought music, as the heroic tone now goes;
but whether so natural to a play, that should most nearly imitate, in
some cases, our familiar converse, the judicious may easily determine."

[21] [A dislike which was silent for five years, if it existed.--ED.]

[22] Who drew Sir Robert in the character of Sir Positive Atall in the
"Sullen Lovers;" "a foolish knight, that pretends to understand
everything in the world, and will suffer no man to understand anything
in his company; so foolishly positive, that he will never be convinced
of an error, though never so gross." This character is supported with
great humour.

[23] In a letter from Dryden to Tonson, dated 26th May 1696, in which he
reckons upon Sir Robert Howard's assistance in a pecuniary transaction.

[24] "I am informed Mr. Dryden is now translating of Virgil; and
although I must own it is a fault to forestall or anticipate the praise
of a man in his labours, yet, big with the greatness of the work, and
the vast capacity of the author, I cannot here forbear saying, that Mr.
Dryden, in the translating of Virgil, will of a certain make Maro speak
better than ever Maro thought. Besides those already mentioned, there
are other ingredients and essential parts of poetry, necessary for the
forming of a truly great and happy genius, viz. a free air and spirit, a
vigorous and well governed thought, which are, as it were, the soul
which inform and animate the whole mass and body of verse. But these are
such divine excellencies as are peculiar only to the brave and the wise.
The first chief in verse, who trode in this sweet and delightful path of
the Muses, was the renowned Earl of Roscommon, a great worthy, as well
as a great wit; and who is, in all respects, resembled by another great
Lord of this present age, viz. my Lord Cutts, a person whom all people
must allow to be an accomplished gentleman, a great general, and a fine

"The two elaborate poems of Blackmore and Milton, the which, for the
dignity of them, may very well be looked upon as the two grand exemplars
of poetry, do either of them exceed, and are more to be valued than all
the poets, both of the Romans and the Greeks put together. There are two
other incomparable pieces of poetry, viz. Mr. Dryden's 'Absalom and
Achitophel,' and the epistle of a known and celebrated wit (_Mr. Charles
Montague_) to my Lord of Dorset, the best judge in poetry, as well as
the best poet; the tutelar _numen_ o' the stage, and on whose breath all
the Muses have their dependence."--_Proem to an Essay on Pastoral, and
Elegy on Queen Mary, by the Honourable Edward Howard, 21st January_

[25] That now before me is prefixed to the second edition of the "Indian
Emperor," 1668.

[26] [It seems to have been a memorial addressed to the Lord Chamberlain
for the time, and was long in the possession of the Killigrew family. It
was communicated by the learned Mr. Reed to Mr. Malone, and runs as

"Whereas, upon Mr. Dryden's binding himself to write _three playes_ a
yeere, the said Mr. Dryden, was admitted, and continued as a sharer, in
the King's Playhouse for diverse years, and received for his share and a
quarter, three or four hundred pounds, _communibus annis_; but though he
received the moneys, we received not the playes, not one in a yeare.
After which, the House being burnt, the Company, in building another,
contracted great debts, so that the shares fell much short of what they
were formerly. Thereupon, Mr. Dryden complaining to the Company of his
want of proffit, the Company was so kind to him, that they not only did
not presse him for the playes which he so engaged to write for them, and
for which he was paid beforehand, but they did also, at his earnest
request, give him a third day for his last new play, called 'All for
Love;' and at the receipt of the money of the said third day, he
acknowledged it as a guift, and a particular kindnesse of the Company.
Yet, notwithstanding this kind proceeding, Mr. Dryden has now, jointly
with Mr. Lee (who was in pension with us to the last day of our playing,
and shall continue), written a play, called 'Oedipus,' and given it to
the Duke's Company, contrary to his said agreement, his promise, and all
gratitude, to the great prejudice and almost undoing of the Company,
they being the only poets remaining to us. Mr. Crowne, being under the
like agreement with the Duke's House, writt a play, called the
'Destruction of Jerusalem,' and being forced, by their refusall of it,
to bring it to us, the said Company compelled us, after the studying of
it, and a vast expence in scenes and cloathes, to buy off their clayme,
by paying all the pension he had received from them, amounting to one
hundred and twelve pounds paid by the King's Company, besides neere
forty pounds he, the said Mr. Crowne, paid out of his owne pocket.

"These things considered, if, notwithstanding Mr. Dryden's said
agreement, promise, and moneys, freely given him for his said last new
play, and the many titles we have to his writings, this play be judged
away from us, we must submit.

           CHARLES HART.
           RICH. BURT.
           MIC. MOHUN."

Dryden also appears as a regular partner in the King's Company in an
agreement to repay money lent for the purpose of rebuilding the Theatre
after its burning in 1672.--_Shakespeare Society's Papers_, iv. 147.--

[27] Cibber, with his usual vivacity, thus describes the comic powers of
Nokes in this admired character:

"In the ludicrous distresses, which, by the laws of comedy, folly is
often involved in, he sunk into such a mixture of piteous pusillanimity,
and a consternation so ruefully ridiculous and inconsolable, that when
he had shook you to a fatigue of laughter, it became a moot point,
whether you ought not to have pity'd him. When he debated any matter by
himself, he would shut up his mouth with a dumb studious powt, and roll
his full eye into such a vacant amazement, such palpable ignorance of
what to think of it, that his silent perplexity (which would sometimes
hold him several minutes) gave your imagination as full content, as the
most absurd thing he could say upon it. In the character of Sir Martin
Mar-all, who is always committing blunders to the prejudice of his own
interest, when he had brought himself to a dilemma in his affairs, by
vainly proceeding upon his own head, and was afterwards afraid to look
his governing servant and counsellor in the face; what a copious and
distressful harangue have I seen him make with his looks (while the
house has been in one continued roar for several minutes) before he
could prevail with his courage to speak a word to him! Then might you
have, at once, read in his face vexation--that his own measures, which
he had piqued himself upon, had failed; envy of his servant's wit;
distress--to retrieve the occasion he had lost; shame--to confess his
folly; and yet a sullen desire to be reconciled, and better advised for
the future! What tragedy ever showed us such a tumult of passions
rising, at once, in one bosom! or what buskin hero, standing under the
load of them, could have more effectually moved his spectators by the
most pathetic speech, than poor miserable Nokes did by this silent
eloquence, and piteous plight of his features?"--CIBBER'S _Apology_, p.

[28] [This sentence rests on a rather slender basis of fact. Butler is
said to have had a share in the "Rehearsal," and certainly wrote a
charming parody of the usual heroic-play dialogue, in his scene between
"Cat and Puss." But this of itself can hardly be said to justify the
phrase "adversary of our author's reputation." As for Dryden, he nowhere
attacks Butler, and speaks honourably of him after his death in his
complaint to Lawrence Hyde.--ED.]

[29] [This is the correct date of the patent. There is however in the
Record Office an instruction for the preparation of a bill for the
purpose, dated April 13. This was pointed out to me by Mr. W. Noel

[30] Pat. 22 Car. 11. p. 6, ii. 6. Malone, i. p. 88.

[31] Their account was probably exaggerated. Upon a similar occasion,
the master of the revels stated the value of his winter and summer
benefit plays at £50 each; although, in reality, they did not, upon an
average, produce him £9. See Malone's _Historical Account of the Stage_.

[32] [1672.--ED.]


_Heroic Plays--The Rehearsal--Marriage à la Mode--The Assignation--
Controversy with Clifford--with Leigh--with Ravenscroft--Massacre of
Amboyna--State of Innocence_.

The rage for imitating the French stage, joined to the successful
efforts of our author, had now carried the heroic or rhyming tragedy to
its highest pitch of popularity. The principal requisites of such a
drama are summed up by Dryden in the first two lines of the "_Orlando

  "_Le Donne, i cavalier, l'arme, gli amori
  Le cortesie, l'audaci imprese_."

The story thus partaking of the nature of a romance of chivalry, the
whole interest of the play necessarily turned upon love and honour,
those supreme idols of the days of knight-errantry The love introduced
was not of that ordinary sort, which exists between persons of common
mould; it was the love of Amadis and Oriana, of Oroondates and Statira;
that love which required a sacrifice of every wish, hope, and feeling
unconnected with itself, and which was expressed in the language of
prayer and of adoration. It was that love which was neither to be
chilled by absence, nor wasted by time, nor quenched by infidelity. No
caprice in the object beloved entitled her slave to emancipate himself
from her fetters; no command, however unreasonable, was to be disobeyed;
if required by the fair mistress of his affections, the hero was not
only to sacrifice his interest, but his friend, his honour, his word,
his country, even the gratification of his love itself, to maintain the
character of a submissive and faithful adorer. Much of this mystery is
summed up in the following speech of Almahide to Almanzor, and his
answer, from which it appears, that a lover of the true heroic vein
never thought himself so happy, as when he had an opportunity of thus
showing the purity and disinterestedness of his passion. Almanzor is
commanded by his mistress to stay to assist his rival, the king, her
husband. The lover very naturally asks,

  _Almanz_. What recompence attends me, if I stay?

  _Almah_. You know I am from recompence debarred,
  But I will grant your merit a reward;
  Your flame's too noble to deserve a cheat,
  And I too plain to practise a deceit.
  I no return of love can ever make,
  But what I ask is for my husband's sake;
  He, I confess, has been ungrateful too,
  But he and I are ruined if you go;
  Your virtue to the hardest proof I bring;
  Unbribed, preserve a mistress and a king.

  _Almanz_. I'll stop at nothing that appears so brave:
  I'll do't, and now I no reward will have.
  You've given my honour such an ample field,
  That I may die, but that shall never yield.

The king, however, not perhaps understanding this nice point of honour,
grows jealous, and wishes to dismiss the disinterested ally, whom his
spouse's beauty had enlisted in his service. But this did not depend
upon him; for Almanzor exclaims,

  _Almanz_. I wonnot go; I'll not be forced away:
  I came not for thy sake; nor do I stay.
  It was the queen who for my aid did send;
  And 'tis I only can the queen defend:
  I, for her sake, thy sceptre will maintain;
  And thou, by me, in spite of thee, shalt reign.

The most applauded scenes in these plays turned upon nice discussions of
metaphysical passion, such as in the days of yore were wont to be
agitated in the courts and parliaments of love. Some puzzling dilemma,
or metaphysical abstraction, is argued between the personages on the
stage, whose dialogue, instead of presenting a scene of natural passion,
exhibits a sort of pleading or combat of logic, in which each endeavours
to defend his own opinion by catching up the idea expressed by the
former speaker, and returning him his illustration, or simile, at the
rebound; and where the lover hopes everything from his ingenuity, and
trusts nothing to his passion. Thus, in the following scene between
Almanzor and Almahide, the solicitations of the lover, and the denials
of the queen, are expressed in the very carte and tierce of poetical

  _Almah_. My light will sure discover those who talk.--
  Who dares to interrupt my private walk?

  _Almanz_. He, who dares love, and for that love must die.
  And, knowing this, dares yet love on, am I.

  _Almah_. That love which you can hope, and I can pay,
  May be received and given in open day;
  My praise and my esteem you had before;
  And you have bound yourself to ask no more.

  _Almanz_. Yes, I have bound myself; but will you take
  The forfeit of that bond, which force did make?

  _Almah_. You know you are from recompence debarred;
  But purest love can live without reward.

  _Almanz_. Pure love had need be to itself a feast;
  For, like pure elements, 'twill nourish least.

  _Almah_. It therefore yields the only pure content;
  For it, like angels, needs no nourishment.
  To eat and drink can no perfection be;
  All appetite implies necessity.

  _Almanz_. 'Twere well, if I could like a spirit live;
  But, do not angels food to mortals give?
  What if some demon should my death foreshow,
  Or bid me change, and to the Christians go;
  Will you not think I merit some reward,
  When I my love above my life regard?

  _Almah_. In such a case your change must be allowed:
  I would myself dispense with what you vowed.

  _Almanz_. Were I to die that hour when I possess,
  This minute shall begin my happiness.

  _Almah_. The thoughts of death your passion would remove;
  Death is a cold encouragement to love.

  _Almanz_. No; from my joys I to my death would run,
  And think the business of my life well done:
  But I should walk a discontented ghost,
  If flesh and blood were to no purpose lost.

This kind of Amoebaean dialogue was early ridiculed by the ingenious
author of "Hudibras."[1]

It partakes more of the Spanish than of the French tragedy, although it
does not demand that the parody shall be so very strict, as to re-echo
noun for noun, or verb for verb, which Lord Holland gives us as a law of
the age of Lope de Vega.[2] The English heroic poet did enough if he
displayed sufficient point in the dialogue, and alertness in adopting
and retorting the image presented by the preceding speech; though, if he
could twist the speaker's own words into an answer to his argument, it
seems to have been held the more ingenious mode of confutation.

While the hero of a rhyming tragedy was thus unboundedly submissive in
love, and dexterous in applying the metaphysical logic of amorous
jurisprudence it was essential to his character that he should possess
all the irresistible courage, and fortune of a _preux chevalier_.
Numbers, however unequal, were to be as chaff before the whirlwind of
his valour; and nothing was to be so impossible that, at the command of
his mistress, he could not with ease achieve. When, in the various
changes of fortune which such tragedies demand, he quarrelled with those
whom he had before assisted to conquer,

  "Then to the vanquished part his fate he led,
  The vanquished triumphed, and the victor fled."

The language of such a personage, unless when engaged in argumentative
dialogue with his mistress, was, in all respects, as magnificent and
inflated as might beseem his irresistible prowess. Witness the famous
speech of Almanzor:

  _Almanz_.     To live!
  If from thy hands alone my death can be,
  I am immortal and a god to thee.
  If I would kill thee now, thy fate's so low,
  That I must stoop ere I can give the blow:
  But mine is fixed so far above thy crown,
  That all thy men,
  Piled on thy back, can never pull it down:
  But, at my ease, thy destiny I send,
  By ceasing from this hour to be thy friend.
  Like heaven I need but only to stand still,
  And, not concurring to thy life, I kill,
  Thou canst no title to my duty bring;
  I'm not thy subject, and my soul's thy king.
  Farewell. When I am gone,
  There's not a star of thine dare stay with thee:
  I'll whistle thy tame fortune after me;
  And whirl fate with me wheresoe'er I fly,
  As winds drive storms before them in the sky.

It was expected by the audience, that the pomp of scenery, and bustle of
action, in which such tremendous heroes were engaged, should in some
degree correspond with their lofty sentiments and superhuman valour.
Hence solemn feasts, processions, and battles by sea and land, filled
the theatre. Hence, also, the sudden and violent changes of fortune, by
which the hero and his antagonists are agitated through the whole piece.
Fortune has been often compared to the sea; but in a heroic play, her
course resembled an absolute Bay of Biscay, or Race of Portland,
disturbed by an hundred contending currents and eddies, and never
continuing a moment in one steady flow.

That no engine of romantic surprise might be wanting, Dryden contends,
that the dramatist, as he is not confined to the probable in character,
so he is not limited by the bounds of nature in the action, but may let
himself loose to visionary objects, and to the representation of such
things as, not depending upon sense, leave free exercise for the
imagination. Indeed, if ghosts, magicians, and demons, might with
propriety claim a place anywhere, it must be in plays which throughout
disclaim the common rules of nature, both in the incidents narrated, and
the agents interested.[3]

Lastly, the action of the heroic drama was to be laid, not merely in the
higher, but in the very highest walk of life. No one could with decorum
aspire to share the sublimities which it annexed to character, except
those made of the "porcelain clay of the earth," dukes, princes, kings,
and kaisars. The matters agitated must be of moment, proportioned to
their characters and elevated station, the fate of cities and the fall
of kingdoms.

That the language, as well as actions and character of the _dramatis
personae_, might be raised above the vulgar, their sentiments were
delivered in rhyme, the richest and most ornate kind of verse, and the
farthest removed from ordinary colloquial diction. Dryden has himself
assigned the following reasons:--"The plot, the characters, the wit, the
passions, the descriptions, are all exalted above the level of common
converse, as high as the imagination of the poet can carry them, with
proportion to verisimility. Tragedy, we know, is wont to image to us the
minds and fortunes of noble persons, and to portray these exactly;
heroic rhyme is nearest nature, as being the noblest kind of modern

  _Indignatur enim priratis et prope socco
  Dignis carminibus narrari coena Thyestae_--

says Horace: and in another place,

  _Effutire leves indigna tragaedia versus_.--

Blank verse is acknowledged to be too low for a poem, nay more, for a
paper of verses; but if too low for an ordinary sonnet, how much more
for tragedy, which is by Aristotle, in the dispute betwixt the epic
poesy and the dramatic, for many reasons he there alleges, ranked above

When we consider these various essentials of a rhyming play, we may
perhaps, without impropriety define it to be a metrical romance of
chivalry in form of a drama. The hero is a perfect knight-errant,
invincible in battle, and devoted to his Dulcinea by a love, subtle,
metaphysical and abstracted from all the usual qualities of the
instinctive passion; his adventures diversified by splendid descriptions
of bull-feasts, battles, and tournaments; his fortune undergoing the
strangest, most causeless, and most unexpected varieties; his history
chequered by the marvellous interference of ghosts, spectres, and hell
itself; his actions effecting the change of empires, and his co-agents
being all lords, and dukes, and noble princes, in order that their rank
might, in some slight degree, correspond to the native exultation of the
champion's character.

The reader may smile at this description, and feel some surprise, how
compositions, involving such gross absurdities, were tolerated by an
audience having pretence to taste and civilisation But something may be
said for the heroic drama.

Although the manners were preposterous, and the changes of fortune rapid
and improbable, yet the former often attained a sublime, though forced
elevation of sentiment; and the latter, by rapidity of transition and of
contrast, served in no slight degree to interest as well as to surprise
the audience. If the spectators were occasionally stunned with bombast,
or hurried and confused by the accumulation of action and intrigue, they
escaped the languor of a creeping dialogue, and the taedium of a barren
plot, of which the termination is descried full three acts before it can
be attained. Besides, if these dramas were sometimes extravagant,
beautiful passages often occurred to atone for these sallies of fury. In
others, ingenuity makes some amends for the absence of natural feeling,
and the reader's fancy is pleased at the expense of his taste. In
representation, the beauty of the verse, assisted by the enunciation of
such actors as Betterton and Mohun, gilded over the defects of the
sense, and afforded a separate gratification. The splendour of scenery
also, in which these plays claimed a peculiar excellence, afforded a
different but certain road to popular favour; and thus this drama, with
all its faults, was very far from wanting the usual requisites for
success. But another reason for its general popularity may be sought in
a certain correspondence with the manners of the time.

Although in Charles the Second's reign the age of chivalry was totally
at an end, yet the sentiments, which had ceased to be motives of action,
were not so obsolete as to sound totally strange to the public ear. The
French romances of the lower class, such as "Cassandra," "Cleopatra,"
etc., were the favourite pastime of the ladies, and retained all the
extravagancies of chivalrous sentiment, with a double portion of tedious
form and metaphysical subtlety. There were occasionally individuals
romantic enough to manage their correspondence and amours on this
exploded system. The admired Mrs. Philips carried on an extensive
correspondence with ingenious persons of both sexes, in which she called
herself _Orinda_, and her husband, Mr. Wogan, by the title of _Antenor_.
Shadwell, an acute observer of nature, in one of his comedies describes
a formal coxcomb of this class, who courts his mistress out of the
"Grand Cyrus," and rejoices in an opportunity of showing, that his
passion could subsist in despite of her scorn.[4] It is probable he had
met with such an original in the course of his observation. The
_Précieuses_ of Molière, who affected a strange mixture of the romantic
heroine and modern fine lady, belong to the same class of oddities, and
had their prototypes under the observation of the satirist. But even
those who were above such foppery had been early taught to read and
admire the conceits of Donne, and the metaphysical love-poems of Cowley.
They could not object to the quaint and argumentative dialogues which we
have described; for the course of their studies had formed their taste
upon a model equally artificial and fantastic: and thus, what between
real excellence, and false brilliancy, the age had been accustomed not
only to admit, but to admire heroic plays.

Perhaps even these favourable circumstances, of taste and opportunity,
would hardly have elevated the rhyming drama so high in the public
opinion, had it been supported by less powers than those of Dryden, or
even by equal talents less happily adapted to that style of composition.
His versification flowed so easily, as to lessen the bad effects of
rhyme in dialogue; and, at the same time, abounded with such splendid
and sonorous passages, as, in the mouth of a Betterton, awed into
silence even those critics, who could distinguish that the tumid and
unnatural was sometimes substituted for the heroic and sublime. The
felicity of his language, the richness of his illustrations, and the
depth of his reflections, often supplied what the scene wanted in
natural passion; and, while enjoying the beauty of his declamation, it
was only on cool reflection that the hearer discovered it had passed
upon him for the expression of genuine feeling. Even then, the pleasure
which he actually received from the representation, was accepted as an
apology for the more legitimate delight, which the rules of criticism
entitled him to have expected. To these considerations, the high rank
and consequent influence, which Dryden already held in the fashionable
and literary circles of the time, must unquestionably be added. Nor did
he fail to avail himself of his access to the great, whose applause was
often cheaply secured by a perusal of the piece, previous to its being
presented to the public; and thus it afterwards came forth with all the
support of a party eminent for rank and literature, already prepossessed
in its favour.[5]

For all these reasons, the heroic drama appears to have gradually risen
in reputation, from the return of Charles till about the year 1670-1,
when Dryden's "Conquest of Granada" was received with such enthusiastic
applause. The reputation of the poet himself kept pace with that of his
favourite style of composition; and though posterity has judged more
correctly, it may be questioned, whether "Tyrannic Love" and the
"Conquest of Granada" did not place Dryden higher in public esteem, in
1670, than his "Virgil" and "Fables" in 1700. He was, however, now to
experience the inconveniencies of elevation, and to sustain an attack
upon the style of writing which he had vindicated and practised, as well
as to repel the efforts of rivals, who boasted of outstripping him in
the very road to distinction, which he had himself pointed out. The Duke
of Buckingham attacked the system of rhyming plays from the foundation;
Leigh [Transcriber's note: Print unclear], Clifford, and other
scribblers, wrote criticisms [Transcriber's note: Print unclear] upon
those of our author in particular; and Elkanah Settle was able to form a
faction heretical enough to maintain, that he could write such
compositions better than Dryden.

The witty farce of the "Rehearsal" is said to have been meditated by its
authors (for it was the work of several hands) so early as a year or two
after the Restoration, when Sir William Davenant's operas and tragedies
were the favourite exhibitions. The ostensible author was the witty
George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham whose dissipation was marked with
shades of the darkest profligacy. He lived an unprincipled statesman, a
fickle projector, a wavering friend, a steady enemy; and died a
bankrupt, an outcast, and a proverb. The Duke was unequal to that
masculine satire, which depends for edge and vigour upon the conception
and expression of the author.[6] But he appears to have possessed
considerable powers of discerning what was ludicrous, and enough of
subordinate humour to achieve an imitation of colloquial peculiarities,
or a parody upon remarkable passages of poetry,--talents differing as
widely from real wit as mimicry does from true comic action. Besides,
Buckingham, as a man of fashion and a courtier, was master of the
_persiflage_, or jargon, of the day, so essentially useful as the medium
of conveying light humour. He early distinguished himself as an opponent
of the rhyming plays. Those of the Howards, of Davenant, and others, the
first which appeared after the Reformation, experienced his opposition.
At the representation of the "United Kingdoms," by the Honourable Edward
Howard, a brother of Sir Robert, the Duke's active share in damning the
piece was so far resented by the author and his friends that he narrowly
escaped sanguinary proofs of their displeasure.[7] This specimen of
irritation did not prevent his meditating an attack upon the whole body
of modern dramatists; in which he had the assistance of several wits,
who either respected the ancient drama, or condemned the modern style,
or were willing to make common cause with a Duke against a
poet-laureate. These were, the witty author of Hudibras, who, while
himself starving,[8] amused his misery by ridiculing his contemporaries;
Sprat, afterwards Bishop of Rochester, then Buckingham's chaplain; and
Martin Clifford, afterwards Master of the Charter-House the author of a
very scurrilous criticism upon some of Dryden's plays, to be mentioned
hereafter. By the joint efforts of this coalition, the "Rehearsal" was
produced; a lively piece, which continues to please, although the plays
which it parodies are no longer read or acted, and although the zest of
the personal satire which it contains has evaporated in the lapse of
time. This attack on the reigning taste was long threatened ere it was
made; and the precise quarter to be assailed was varied more than once.
Prior says, that Buckingham suspended his attack till he was certain
that the Earl of Dorset would not "rehearse on him again." The principal
character was termed, in the original sketch, Bilboa, a name expressing
a traveller and soldier, under which Sir Robert Howard, or Sir William
Davenant, was designated The author of the "Key to the Rehearsal"
affirms, that Sir Robert was the person meant; but Mr. Malone is of
opinion, that Davenant is clearly pointed out by the brown paper patch,
introduced in ridicule of that which Davenant really wore upon his nose.
Yet as this circumstance was retained when the character was assigned to
Dryden, the poet of the "Rehearsal" may be considered as in some degree
a knight of the shire, representing all the authors of the day, and
uniting in his person their several absurd peculiarities. The first
sketch of the "Rehearsal" was written about 1664, but the representation
was prevented by the theatres being shut upon the plague and fire of
London. When they were again opened, the plays of the Howards, of
Stapleton, etc., had fallen into contempt by their own demerit, and were
no longer a well-known or worthy object of ridicule. Perhaps also there
was a difficulty in bringing the piece forward, while, of the persons
against whom its satire was chiefly directed, Davenant was manager of
the one theatre, and Dryden a sharer in the other. The death of Davenant
probably removed this difficulty: and the success of Dryden in the
heroic drama; the boldness with which he stood forth, not only as a
practiser, but as the champion of that peculiar style; a certain
provoking tone of superiority in his critical essays, which, even when
flowing from conscious merit, is not easily tolerated by contemporaries;
and perhaps his situation as poet-laureate, a post which has been always
considered as a fair butt for the shafts of ridicule,--induced
Buckingham to resume the plan of his satire, and to place Dryden in the
situation designed originally for Davenant or Howard. That the public
might be at no loss to assign the character of Bayes to the laureate,
his peculiarities of language were strictly copied. Lacy the actor was
instructed by Buckingham himself how to mimic his voice and manner; and,
in performing the part, he wore a dress exactly resembling Dryden's
usual habit. With these ill-natured precautions, the "Rehearsal" was, in
1671, brought forward for the first time by the King's Company. As,
besides the reputation of Dryden, that of many inferior poets, but
greater men, was assailed by the Duke's satire, it would appear that the
play met a stormy reception on the first night of representation The
friends of the Earl of Orrery, of Sir Robert Howard and his brothers,
and other men of rank, who had produced heroic plays, were loud and
furious in their opposition. But, as usually happens, the party who
laughed, got the advantage over that which was angry, and finally drew
the audience to their side. When once received, the success of the
"Rehearsal" was unbounded. The very popularity of the plays ridiculed
aided the effect of the satire, since everybody had in their
recollection the originals of the passages parodied. Besides the
attraction of personal severity upon living and distinguished literary
characters, and the broad humour of the burlesque, the part of Bayes had
a claim to superior praise, as drawn with admirable attention to the
foibles of the poetic tribe. His greedy appetite for applause; his testy
repulse of censure or criticism; his inordinate and overwhelming vanity,
not unmixed with a vein of flattery to those who he hopes will gratify
him by returning it in kind; finally, that extreme, anxious, and
fidgeting attention to the minute parts of what even in whole is scarce
worthy of any,--are, I fear, but too appropriate qualities of the
"_genus vatum_"

Almost all Dryden's plays, including those on which he set the highest
value, and which he had produced, with confidence, as models of their
kind, were parodied in the "Rehearsal."[9] He alone contributed more to
the farce than all the other poets together. His favourite style of
comic dialogue, which he had declared to consist rather in a quick
sharpness of dialogue than in delineations of humour,[10] is paraphrased
in the scene between Tom Thimble and Prince Prettyman; the lyrics of his
astral spirits are cruelly burlesqued in the song of the two lawful
Kings of Brentford, as they descend to repossess their throne; above
all, Almanzor, his favourite hero, is parodied in the magnanimous
Drawcansir; and, to conclude, the whole scope of heroic plays, with
their combats, feasts, processions, sudden changes of fortune,
embarrassments of chivalrous love and honour, splendid verse and
unnatural rants, are so held up to ridicule, as usually to fix the
resemblance upon some one of his own dramas. The "Wild Gallant," the
"Maiden Queen," and "Tyrannic Love," all furnish parodies as do both
parts of the "Conquest of Granada," which had been frequently acted
before the representation of the "Rehearsal," though not printed till
after. What seems more strange, the play of "Marriage á la Mode" is also
alluded to, although it was neither acted nor printed till 1673, a year
after the appearance of the "Rehearsal". But there being no parody of
any particular passage, although the plot and conduct of the piece is
certainly ridiculed, it seems probable, that, as Dryden often showed his
plays in manuscript to those whom he accounted his patrons, the plan of
"Marriage à la Mode" may have transpired in the circles which Buckingham
frequented, who may thus have made it the subject of satire by

It is easy to conceive what Dryden must have felt, at beholding his
labours and even his person held up to public derision, on the theatre
where he had so often triumphed. But he was too prudent to show outward
signs of resentment; and in conversation allowed, that the farce had a
great many good things in it, though so severe against himself. "Yet I
cannot help saying," he added, in a well-judged tone of contempt, "that
Smith and Johnson are two of the coolest and most insignificant fellows
I ever met with upon the stage."[12] Many years afterwards he assigned
nearly the same reason to the public for not replying to the satire.[13]
But though he veiled his resentment under this mask of indifference at
the time, he afterwards avowed that the exquisite character of Zimri in
"Absalom and Achitophel" was laboured with so much felicitous skill as a
requital in kind to the author of the "Rehearsal."[14]

The ridicule cast upon heroic plays by the "Rehearsal" did not prevent
their being still exhibited. They contained many passages of splendid
poetry, which continued to delight the audience after they had laughed
at Buckingham's parody. But the charm began to dissolve; and from the
time of that representation, they seem gradually, but perceptibly, to
have declined in favour. Accordingly, Dryden did not trust to his powers
of numbers in his next play, but produced the "Marriage à la Mode," a
tragi-comedy or rather a tragedy and comedy, the plots and scenes of
which are intermingled, for they have no natural connection with each
other. The state-intrigue bears evident marks of hurry and inattention;
and it is at least possible, that Dryden originally intended it for the
subject of a proper heroic play, but, startled at the effect of
Buckingham's satire, hastily added to it some comic scenes, either lying
by him, or composed on purpose. The higher or tragic plot is not only
grossly inartificial and improbable, but its incidents are so perplexed
and obscure, that it would have required much more action to detail them
intelligibly. Even the language has an abridged appearance, and favours
the idea, that the tragic intrigue was to have been extended into a
proper heroic play, instead of occupying a spare corner in a comedy. But
to make amends, the comic scenes are executed with spirit, and in a
style resembling those in the "Maiden Queen."[15] They contained much
witty and fashionable raillery; and the character of Melantha is
pronounced by Cibber to exhibit the most complete system of female
foppery that could possibly be crowded into the tortured form of a fine
lady. It was admirably acted by Mrs. Montfort, afterwards Mrs.
Verbruggen. The piece thus supported was eminently successful; a
fortunate circumstance for the King's Company, who were then in
distressful circumstances. Their house in Drury-lane had been destroyed
by fire, after which disaster they were compelled to occupy the old
theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, lately deserted by the rival company
for a splendid one in Dorset Gardens. From a prologue which our author
furnished, to be spoken at the opening of this house of refuge, it would
seem that even the scenes and properties of the actors had been
furnished by the contributions of the nobility.[16] Perhaps their
present reduced situation was an additional reason with Dryden for
turning his attention to comedy, which required less splendour of
exhibition and decoration than the heroic plays.

"Marriage à la Mode" was inscribed to Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, in
strains of adulation not very honourable to the dedicator. But as he
expresses his gratitude for Rochester's care, not only of his reputation
but of his fortune; for his solicitude to overcome the fatal modesty of
poets, which leads them to prefer want to importunity; and, finally, for
the good effects of his mediation in all his concerns at court; it may
be supposed some recent benefit, perhaps an active share in procuring
the appointment of poet-laureate, had warmed the heart of the author
towards the patron. The dedication was well received, and the compliment
handsomely acknowledged as we learn from a letter from Dryden to
Rochester, where he says, that the shame of being so much overpaid for
an ill dedication made him almost repent of his address. But he had
shortly afterwards rather more substantial reasons for regretting his
choice of a patron.

The same cause for abstaining from tragic composition still remaining in
force, Dryden, in 1672, brought forward a comedy, called "The
Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery." The plot was after the Spanish
model. The author seems to have apprehended, and experienced, some
opposition on account of this second name; and although he deprecates,
in the epilogue, the idea of its being a party play, or written to
gratify the Puritans with satire at the expense of the Catholics;[17]
yet he complains, in the dedication, of the number of its enemies, who
came prepared to damn it on account of the title. The Duke of York
having just made public profession of the Roman faith, any reflections
upon it were doubtless watched with a jealous eye. But, though guiltless
in this respect, the "Assignation" had worse faults. The plot is but
indifferently conducted and was neither enlivened with gay dialogue, nor
with striking character: the play, accordingly, proved unsuccessful in
the representation. Yet although, upon reading the "Assignation," we
cannot greatly wonder at this failure, still, considering the plays
which succeeded about the same time, we may be disposed to admit that
the weight of a party was thrown into the scale against its reception.
Buckingham, who shortly afterwards published a revised edition of the
"Rehearsal," failed not to ridicule the absurd and coarse trick, by
which the enamoured prince prevents his father from discovering the
domino of his mistress, which had been left in his apartment.[18] And
Dryden's rivals and enemies, now a numerous body, hailed with malicious
glee an event which seemed to foretell the decay of his popularity.

The "Assignation" was published in 1673, and inscribed, by Dryden, to
his much honoured friend Sir Charles Sedley. There are some acrimonious
passages in this dedication, referring to the controversies in which the
author had been engaged; and, obscure as these have become, it is the
biographer's duty to detail and illustrate them.

It cannot be supposed that the authors of the time saw with indifference
Dryden's rapid success, and the measures which he had taken, by his
critical essays, to guide the public attention and to fix it upon
himself and the heroic plays, in which he felt his full superiority. But
no writer of the time could hope to be listened to by the public, if he
entered a claim of personal competition against a poet so celebrated.
The defence of the ancient poets afforded a less presumptuous and more
favourable pretext for taking the field, and for assailing Dryden's
writings, and avenging the slight notice he had afforded to his
contemporaries, under the colour of defending the ancients against his
criticism. The "Essay of Dramatic Poesy" afforded a pretence for
commencing this sort of warfare. In that piece, Dryden had pointed out
the faults of Shakespeare, Jonson, and Fletcher, with less ceremony than
the height of their established reputation appeared to demand from a
young author. But the precedence which he undauntedly claimed for the
heroic drama, and, more generally, the superiority of the plays of
Dryden's own age, whether tragic or comic, over those of the earlier
part of the seventeenth century, was asserted, not only distinctly, but
irreverently, in the Epilogue to the "Conquest of Granada:"

  "They who have best succeeded on the stage,
  Have still conformed their genius to their age.
  Thus Jonson did mechanic humour show
  When men were dull, and conversation low.
  Then comedy was faultless, but 'twas coarse:
  Cobb's tankard was a jest, and Otter's horse.
  And, as their comedy, their love was mean;
  Except, by chance, in some one laboured scene,
  Which must atone for an ill-written play,
  They rose, but at their height could seldom stay.
  Fame then was cheap, and the first comer sped;
  And they have kept it since, by being dead.
  But, were they now to write, when critics weigh
  Each line, and every word, throughout a play,
  None of them, no, not Jonson in his height,
  Could pass, without allowing grains for weight.
  Think it not envy, that these truths are told;
  Our poet's not malicious, though he's bold.
  'Tis not to brand them that their faults are shown,
  But by their errors to excuse his own.
  If love and honour now are higher raised,
  'Tis not the poet, but the age is praised.
  Wit's now arrived to a more high degree;
  Our native language more refined and free;
  Our ladies and our men now speak more wit
  In conversation than those poets writ.
  Then, one of these is, consequently, true;
  That what this poet writes comes short of you,
  And imitates you ill (which most he fears),
  Or else his writing is not worse than theirs.
  Yet, though you judge (as sure the critics will),
  That some before him writ with greater skill,
  In this one praise he has their fame surpast,
  To please an age more gallant than the last."

The daring doctrine laid down in these obnoxious lines, our author
ventured to maintain in what he has termed a "Defence of the Epilogue,
or an Essay on the Dramatic Poetry of the last age." It is subjoined to
the "Conquest of Granada;" and, as that play was not printed till after
the "Rehearsal," it serves to show how little Dryden's opinions were
altered, or his tone lowered, by the success of that witty satire. It
was necessary, he says, either not to print the bold epilogue, which we
have quoted, or to show that he could defend it. He censures decidedly
the antiquated language, irregular plots, and anachronisms of
Shakespeare and Fletcher; but his main strength seems directed against
Jonson. From his works he selects several instances of harsh, inelegant,
and even inaccurate diction. In describing manners, he claims for the
modern writers a decided superiority over the poets of the earlier age,
when there was less gallantry, and when the authors were not admitted to
the best society. The manners of their low, or Dutch school of comedy,
in which Jonson led the way, by his "Bartholomew Fair," and similar
pieces, are noticed, and censured, as unfit for a polished audience. The
characters in what may be termed genteel comedy are reviewed, and
restricted to the Truewit of Jonson's "Silent Woman," the Mercutio of
Shakespeare, and Fletcher's Don John in the "Chances." Even this last
celebrated character, he observes, is better carried on in the modern
alteration of the play, than in Fletcher's original; a singular instance
of Dryden's liberality of criticism, since the alteration of the
"Chances" was made by that very Duke of Buckingham, from whom he had
just received a bitter and personal offence. Dryden proceeds to contend,
that the living poets, from the example of a gallant king and sprightly
court, have learned, in their comedies, a tone of light discourse and
raillery, in which the solidity of English sense is blended with the air
and gaiety of their French neighbours; in short, that those who call
Jonson's the golden age of poetry, have only this reason, that the
audience were then content with acorns, because they knew not the use of
bread. In all this criticism there was much undeniable truth; but
sufficient weight was not given to the excellencies of the old school,
while their faults were ostentatiously and invidiously enumerated. It
would seem that Dryden, perhaps from the rigour of a puritanical
education, had not studied the ancient dramatic models in his youth, and
had only begun to read them with attention when it was his object rather
to depreciate than to emulate them. But the time came when he did due
homage to their genius.

Meanwhile, this avowed preference of his own period excited the
resentment of the older critics, who had looked up to the era of
Shakespeare as the golden age of poetry; and no less that of the
playwrights of his own standing, who pretended to discover that Dryden
designed to establish less the reputation of his age, than of himself
individually upon the ruined fame of the ancient poets. They complained
that, as the wild bull in the Vivarambla of Granada,

  "monarch-like he ranged the listed field,
  And some he trampled down, and some he kill'd."

Many, therefore, advancing, under pretence of vindicating the fame of
the ancients, gratified their spleen by attacking that of Dryden, and
strove less to combat his criticisms, than to criticise his productions.
We shall have too frequent occasion to observe, that there was, during
the reign of Charles II., a semi-barbarous virulence of controversy,
even upon abstract points of literature, which would be now thought
injudicious and unfair, even by the newspaper advocates of contending
factions. A critic of that time never deemed he had so effectually
refuted the reasoning of his adversary, as when he had said something
disrespectful of his talents, person, or moral character. Thus, literary
contest was embittered by personal hatred, and truth was so far from
being the object of the combatants that even victory was tasteless
unless obtained by the disgrace and degradation of the antagonist. This
reflection may serve to introduce a short detail of the abusive
controversies in which it was Dryden's lot to be engaged.

One of those who most fiercely attacked our author's system and opinions
was Matthew[19] Clifford, already mentioned as engaged in the
"Rehearsal." At what precise time he began his Notes upon Dryden's
Poems, in Four Letters, or how they were originally published, is
uncertain. The last of the letters is dated from the Charter-House 1st
July 1672, and is signed with his name: probably the others were written
shortly before. The only edition now known was printed along with some
"Reflections on the Hind and Panther, by another Hand" (Tom Brown), in
1687. If these letters were not actually printed in 1672, they were
probably successively made public by transcripts handed about in the
coffee-houses which was an usual mode of circulating lampoons and pieces
of satire. Although Clifford was esteemed a man of wit and a scholar,
his style is rude, coarse, and ungentlemanlike, and the criticism is
chiefly verbal. In the note the reader may peruse an ample specimen of
the kind of wit, or rather banter, employed by this facetious
person.[20] The letters were written successively at different periods;
for Clifford in the last complains that he cannot extort an answer, and
therefore seems to conceive that his arguments are unanswerable.

There were several other pamphlets, and fugitive pieces, published
against Dryden at the same time. One of them, entitled "The Censure of
the Rota on Mr. Dryden's Conquest of Granada," was printed at Oxford in
1673. This was followed by a similar piece, entitled, "A description of
the Academy of Athenian Virtuosi, with a Discourse held there in
Vindication of Mr. Dryden's Conquest of Granada against the Author of
the Censure of the Rota." And a third, called "A Friendly Vindication
of Mr. Dryden from the Author of the Censure of the Rota," was printed
at Cambridge. All these appeared previous to the publication of the
"Assignation." The first, as Wood informs us, was written by Richard
Leigh, educated at Queen's College, Oxford, where he entered in 1665,
and was probably resident when this piece was there published. He was
afterwards a player in the Duke's Company, but must be carefully
distinguished from the celebrated comedian of the same name. It seems
likely that he wrote also the second tract, which is a continuation of
the first. Both are in a frothy, flippant style of raillery, of which
the reader will find a specimen in the note.[21] The Cambridge
Vindication seems to have been written by a different hand, though in
the same taste. It is singular in bringing a charge against our author
which has been urged by no other antagonist; for he is there upbraided
with exhibiting in his comedies the persons and follies of living

The friends and admirers of Dryden did not see with indifference these
attacks upon his reputation for he congratulates[23] himself upon having
found defenders even among strangers alluding probably to a tract by Mr.
Charles Blount, entitled, "Mr. Dryden Vindicated, in answer to the
Friendly Vindication of Mr. Dryden, with reflections on the Rota." This
piece is written with all the honest enthusiasm of youth in defence of
that genius, which has excited its admiration. In his address to Sedley,
Dryden notices these attacks upon him with a supreme degree of
contempt[24]. In other respects, the dedication is drawn with the easy
indifference of one accustomed to the best society, towards the
authority of those who presumed to judge of modern manners, without
having access to see those of the higher circles. The picture which it
draws of the elegance of the convivial parties of the wits in that gay
time has been quoted a few pages higher.

I know not if it be here worth while to mention a pretty warfare between
Dryden and Edward Ravenscroft,[25] an unworthy scribbler, who wrote
plays, or rather altered those of Shakespeare, and imitated those of
Molière. This person, whether from a feud which naturally subsisted
between the two rival theatres, or from envy and dislike to Dryden
personally, chose, in the Prologue to the "Citizen turned Gentleman,"
acted at the Duke's House in 1672, to level some sneers at the heroic
drama, which affected particularly the "Conquest of Granada," then
acting with great applause. Ravenscroft's play, which is a bald
translation from the "_Bourgeois Gentilhomme_" of Molière, was
successful, chiefly owing to the burlesque procession of Turks employed
to dub the Citizen a _Mamamouchi_, or Paladin. Dryden, with more
indignation than the occasion warranted, retorted, in the Prologue to
the "Assignation," by the following attack on Ravenscroft's jargon and

  "You must have Mamamouchi, such a fop
  As would appear a monster in a shop;
  He'll fill your pit and boxes to the brim,
  Where, ramm'd in crowds, you see yourselves in him.
  Sure there's some spell our poet never knew,
  In _Hullibabilah de_, and _Chu, chu, chu_;
  But _Marababah sahem_ most did touch you;
  That is, Oh how we love the Mamamouchi!
  Grimace and habit sent you pleased away;
  You damned the poet, and cried up the play."

About this time, too, the actresses in the King's theatre, to vary the
amusements of the house, represented "Marriage à la Mode" in men's
dresses. The Prologue and Epilogue were furnished by Dryden; and in the
latter, mentioning the projected union of the theatres,--

  "all the women most devoutly swear,
  Each would be rather a poor actress here,
  Than to be made a Mamamouchi there."

Ravenscroft, thus satirised, did not fail to exult in the bad success of
the "Assignation," and celebrated his triumph in some lines of a
Prologue to the "Careless Lovers," which was acted in the vacation
succeeding the ill fate of Dryden's play. They are thrown into the note,
that the reader may judge how very unworthy this scribbler was of the
slightest notice from the pen of Dryden.[26]

And with this _Te Deum_, on the part of Ravenscroft ended a petty
controversy, which gives him his only title to be named in the life of
an English classic.

From what has been detailed of these disputes we may learn that, even at
this period, the laureate's wreath was not unmingled with thorns; and
that if Dryden still maintained his due ascendancy over the common band
of authors, it was not without being occasionally under the necessity of
descending into the _arena_ against very inferior antagonists.

In the course of these controversies, Dryden was not idle, though he
cannot be said to have been worthily or fortunately employed; his muse
being lent to the court, who were at this time anxious to awake the
popular indignation against the Dutch. It is a characteristic of the
English nation, that their habitual dislike against their neighbours is
soon and easily blown into animosity. But, although Dryden chose for his
theme the horrid massacre of Amboyna, and fell to the task with such
zeal that he accomplished it in a month, his play was probably of little
service to the cause in which it was written. The story is too
disgusting to produce the legitimate feelings of pity and terror which
tragedy should excite: the black-hole of Calcutta would be as pleasing a
subject. The character of the Hollanders is too grossly vicious and
detestable to give the least pleasure. They are neither men, nor even
devils; but a sort of lubber fiends, compounded of cruelty, avarice, and
brutal debauchery, like Dutch swabbers possessed by demons. But of this
play the author has himself admitted, that the subject is barren, the
persons low, and the writing not heightened by any laboured scenes: and,
without attempting to contradict this modest description, we may dismiss
the tragedy of "Amboyna." It was dedicated to Lord Clifford of
Chudleigh, an active member of the Cabal administration of Charles II.;
but who, as a Catholic, on the test act being passed, resigned his post
of lord high treasurer, and died shortly afterwards. There is great
reason to think that this nobleman had essentially favoured Dryden's
views in life. On a former occasion, he had termed Lord Clifford a
better Maecenas than that of Horace;[27] and, in the present dedication,
he mentions the numerous favours received through so many years as
forming one continued act of his patron's generosity and goodness; so
that the excess of his gratitude had led the poet to receive those
benefits, as the Jews received their law, with mute wonder, rather than
with outward and ceremonious acclamation. These sentiments of obligation
he continued, long after Lord Clifford's death, to express in terms
equally glowing;[28] so that we may safely do this statesman's memory
the justice to record him as an active and discerning patron of Dryden's

In the course of 1673 our author's pen was engaged in a task, which may
be safely condemned as presumptuous, though that pen was Dryden's. It
was no other than that of new-modelling the "Paradise Lost" of Milton
into a dramatic poem, called the "State of Innocence, or the Fall of
Man." The coldness with which Milton's mighty epic was received upon the
first publication is almost proverbial. The character of the author,
obnoxious for his share in the usurped government; the turn of the
language, so different from that of the age; the seriousness of a
subject so discordant with its lively frivolities--gave to the author's
renown the slowness of growth with the permanency of the oak. Milton's
merit, however, had not escaped the eye of Dryden.[29] He was acquainted
with the author, perhaps even before the Restoration; and who can doubt
Dryden's power of feeling the sublimity of the "Paradise Lost," even had
he himself not assured us, in the prefatory essay to his own piece, that
he accounts it, "undoubtedly, one of the greatest, most noble, and most
sublime poems, which either this age or nation has produced"? We are,
therefore, to seek for the motive which could have induced him, holding
this opinion, "to gild pure gold, and set a perfume on the violet."
Dennis has left a curious record upon this subject:--"Dryden," he
observes, "in his Preface before the 'State of Innocence,' appears to
have been the first, those gentlemen excepted whose verses are before
Milton's poem, who discovered in so public a manner an extraordinary
opinion of Milton's extraordinary merit. And yet Mr. Dryden at that time
knew not half the extent of his excellence, as more than twenty years
afterwards he confessed to me, and is pretty plain from his writing the
'State of Innocence.'" Had he known the full extent of Milton's
excellence, Dennis thought he would not have ventured on this
undertaking, unless he designed to be a foil to him: "but they," he
adds, "who knew Mr. Dryden, know very well, that he was not of a temper
to design to be a foil to any one."[30] We are therefore to conclude,
that it was only the hope of excelling his original, admirable as he
allowed it to be, which impelled Dryden upon this unprofitable and
abortive labour; and we are to examine the improvements which Dryden
seemed to meditate, or, in other words, the differences between his
taste and that of Milton.

And first we may observe, that the difference in their situations
affected their habits of thinking upon poetical subjects. Milton had
retired into solitude, if not into obscurity, relieved from everything
like external agency either influencing his choice of a subject, or his
mode of treating it; and in consequence, instead of looking abroad to
consult the opinion of his age, he appealed only to the judge which
heaven had implanted within him, when he was endowed with severity of
judgment, and profusion of genius. But the taste of Dryden was not so
independent. Placed by his very office at the head of what was
fashionable in literature, he had to write for those around him, rather
than for posterity; was to support a brilliant reputation in the eye of
the world; and is frequently found boasting of his intimacy with those
who led the taste of the age, and frequently quoting the

  "_tamen me
  Cum magnis vixisse, invita falebitur usque

It followed, that Dryden could not struggle against the tide into which
he was launched, and that, although it might be expected from his
talents that he should ameliorate the reigning taste, or at least carry
those compositions which it approved to their utmost pitch of
perfection, it could not be hoped that he should altogether escape being
perverted by it, or should soar so superior to all its prejudices as at
once to admit the super-eminent excellence of a poem which ran counter
to these in so many particulars. The versification of Milton, according
to the taste of the times, was ignoble, from its supposed facility.
Dryden was, we have seen, so much possessed with this prejudice, as to
pronounce blank verse unfit even for a fugitive paper of verses. Even in
his later and riper judgment he affirms, that, whatever pretext Milton
might allege for the use of blank verse, "his own particular reason is
plainly this,--that rhyme was not his talent; he had neither the ease of
doing it, nor the graces of it: which is manifest in his 'Juvenilia,' or
verses written in his youth, where his rhyme is always constrained and
forced, and comes hardly from him, at an age when the soul is most
pliant, and the passion of love makes almost every man a rhymer, though
not a poet."

The want of the dignity of rhyme was therefore, according to his idea,
an essential deficiency in the "Paradise Lost." According to Aubrey,
Dryden communicated to Milton his intention of adding this grace to his
poem; to which the venerable bard gave a contemptuous consent, in these
words: "Ay, you may _tag_ my verses if you will." Perhaps few have read
so far into the "State of Innocence" as to discover that Dryden did not
use this licence to the uttermost and that several of the scenes are not
tagg'd with rhyme.

Dryden at this period engaged in a research recommended to him by "a
noble wit of Scotland," as he terms Sir George Mackenzie, the issue of
which, in his apprehension, pointed out further room for improving upon
the epic of Milton. This was an inquiry into the "turn of words and
thoughts" requisite in heroic poetry. These "turns," according to the
definition and examples which Dryden has given us, differ from the
points of wit, and quirks of epigram, common in the metaphysical poets,
and consist in a happy, and at the same time a natural, recurrence of
the same form of expression, melodiously varied. Having failed in his
search after these beauties in Cowley, the darling of his youth, "I
consulted," says Dryden, "a greater genius (without offence to the manes
of that noble author), I mean--Milton; but as he endeavours everywhere
to express Homer, whose age had not arrived to that fineness, I found in
him a true sublimity, lofty thoughts, which were clothed with admirable
Grecisms, and ancient words, which he had been digging from the mines of
Chaucer and Spenser, and which, with all their rusticity, had somewhat
of venerable in them. But I found not there neither that for which I
looked." This judgment Addison has proved to be erroneous, by quoting
from Milton the most beautiful example of a turn of words which can be
found in English poetry.[31] But Dryden, holding it for just, conceived,
doubtless, that in his "State of Innocence" he might exert his skill
successfully, by supplying the supposed deficiency, and for relieving
those "flats of thought" which he complains of, where Milton, for a
hundred lines together, runs on in a "track of scripture;" but which
Dennis more justly ascribes to the humble nature of his subject in those
passages. The graces, also, which Dryden ventured to interweave with the
lofty theme of Milton, were rather those of Ovid than of Virgil, rather
turns of verbal expression than of thought. Such is that conceit which
met with censure at the time:

  "Seraph and cherub, careless of their charge,
  And wanton, in full ease now live at large;
  Unguarded leave the passes of the sky,
  And all dissolved in hallelujahs lie."

"I have heard," said a petulant critic, "of anchovies dissolved in
sauce; but never of an angel dissolved in hallelujahs." But this
raillery Dryden rebuffs with a quotation from Virgil:

  "_Invadunt urbem, somno vinoque sepultam_."

It might have been replied, that Virgil's analogy was familiar and
simple, and that of Dryden was far-fetched, and startling by its
novelty. The majesty of Milton's verse is strangely degraded in the
following speeches, which precede the rising of Pandaemonium. Some of
the couplets are utterly flat and bald, and, in others, the balance of
point and antithesis is substituted for the simple sublimity of the

  _Moloch_. Changed as we are, we're yet from homage free;
  We have, by hell, at least gained liberty:
  That's worth our fall; thus low though we are driven.
  Better to rule in hell, than serve in heaven.

  _Lucifer_. There spoke the better half of Lucifer!

  _Asmoday_. 'Tis fit in frequent senate we confer,
  And then determine how to steer our course;
  To wage new war by fraud, or open force.
  The doom's now past, submission were in vain.

  _Mol_. And were it not, such baseness I disdain;
  I would not stoop, to purchase all above,
  And should contemn a power, whom prayer could move,
  As one unworthy to have conquered me.

  _Beelzebub_. Moloch, in that all are resolved, like thee
  The means are unproposed; but 'tis not fit
  Our dark divan in public view should sit;
  Or what we plot against the Thunderer,
  The ignoble crowd of vulgar devils hear.

  _Lucif._ A golden palace let be raised on high;
  To imitate? No, to outshine the sky!
  All mines are ours, and gold above the rest:
  Let this be done; and quick as 'twas exprest.

I fancy the reader is now nearly satisfied with Dryden's improvements on
Milton. Yet some of his alterations have such peculiar reference to the
taste and manners of his age, that I cannot avoid pointing them out. Eve
is somewhat of a coquette even in the state of innocence. She exclaims:

    "from each tree
  The feathered kind press down to look on me;
  The beasts, with up-cast eyes, forsake their shade,
  And gaze, as if I were to be obeyed.
  Sure, I am somewhat which they wish to be,
  And cannot,--I myself am proud of me."

Upon receiving Adam's addresses, she expresses, rather unreasonably in
the circumstances, some apprehensions of his infidelity; and, upon the
whole, she is considerably too knowing for the primitive state. The same
may be said of Adam, whose knowledge in school divinity, and use of
syllogistic argument, Dryden, though he found it in the original, was
under no necessity to have retained.

The "State of Innocence," as it could not be designed for the stage,
seems to have been originally intended as a mere poetical prolusion; for
Dryden, who was above affecting such a circumstance, tells us, that it
was only made public, because, in consequence of several hundred copies,
every one gathering new faults, having been dispersed without his
knowledge, it became at length a libel on the author, who was forced to
print a correct edition in his own defence. As the incidents and
language were ready composed by Milton, we are not surprised when
informed, that the composition and revision were completed in a single
month. The critics having assailed the poem even before publication, the
author has prefixed an "Essay upon Heroic Poetry and Poetic Licence;" in
which he treats chiefly of the use of metaphors, and of the legitimacy
of machinery.

The Dedication of the "State of Innocence," addressed to Mary of Este,
Duchess of York, is a singular specimen of what has been since termed
the _celestial_ style of inscription. It is a strain of flattery in the
language of adoration; and the elated station of the princess is
declared so suited to her excellence, that Providence has only done
justice to its own works in placing the most perfect work of heaven
where it may be admired by all beholders. Even this flight is surpassed
by the following:--"Tis true, you are above all mortal wishes; no man
desires impossibilities, because they are beyond the reach of nature. To
hope to be a god is folly exalted into madness; but, by the laws of our
creation, we are obliged to adore him, and are permitted to love him too
at human distance. 'Tis the nature of perfection to be attractive; but
the excellency of the object refines the nature of the love. It strikes
an impression of awful reverence; 'tis indeed that love which is more
properly a zeal than passion. 'Tis the rapture which anchorites find in
prayer, when a beam of the divinity shines upon them; that which makes
them despise all worldly objects; and yet 'tis all but contemplation.
They are seldom visited from above; but a single vision so transports
them, that it makes up the happiness of their lives. Mortality cannot
bear it often: it finds them in the eagerness and height of their
devotion; they are speechless for the time that it continues, and
prostrate and dead when it departs." Such eulogy was the taste of the
days of Charles, when ladies were deified in dedications and painted as
Venus or Diana upon canvas. In our time, the elegance of the language
would be scarcely held to counterbalance the absurdity of the

Lee, the dramatic writer, an excellent poet, though unfortunate in his
health and circumstances evinced his friendship for Dryden, rather than
his judgment, by prefixing to the "State of Innocence" a copy of verses,
in which he compliments the author with having refined the ore of
Milton. Dryden repaid this favour by an epistle, in which he beautifully
apologises for the extravagancies of his friend's poetry, and consoles
him for the censure of those cold judges, whose blame became praise when
they accused the warmth which they were incapable of feeling.[32]

Having thus brought the account of our author's productions down to
1674, from which period we date a perceptible change in his taste and
mode of composition, I have only to add, that his private situation was
probably altered to the worse, by the burning of the King's Theatre, and
the debts contracted in rebuilding it. The value of his share in that
company must consequently have fallen far short of what it was
originally. In other respects, he was probably nearly in the same
condition as in 1672. The critics, who assailed his literary reputation,
had hitherto spared his private character; and, excepting Rochester,
whose malignity towards Dryden now began to display itself, he probably
had not lost one person whom he had thought worthy to be called a
friend. Lee, who seems first to have distinguished himself about 1672,
was probably then added to the number of his intimates. Milton died
shortly before the publication of the "State of Innocence;" and we may
wish in vain to know his opinion of that piece; but if tradition can be
trusted, he said, perhaps on that undertaking, that Dryden was a good
rhymer, but no poet. Blount, who had signalised himself in Dryden's
defence, was now added to the number of his friends. This gentleman
dedicated his "_Religio Laici_" to Dryden in 1683, as his much-honoured
friend; and the poet speaks of him with kindness and respect in 1696,
three years after his unfortunate and violent catastrophe.

Dryden was, however, soon to experience the mutability of the friendship
of wits and courtiers. A period was speedily approaching, when the
violence of political faction was to effect a breach between our author
and many of those with whom he was now intimately connected; indeed, he
was already entangled in the quarrels of the great, and sustained a
severe personal outrage, in consequence of a quarrel with which he had
little individual concern.


[1] In "Repartees between Cat and Puss at a caterwauling, in the modern
heroic way:"

  "_Cat_. Forbear, foul ravisher, this rude address;
  Canst thou at once both injure and caress?

  _Puss_. Thou hast bewitched me with thy powerful charms,
  And I, by drawing blood, would cure my harms.

  _C_. He that does love would set his heart a tilt,
  Ere one drop of his lady's should be spilt.

  _P_. Your wounds are but without, and mine within:
  You wound my heart, and I but prick your skin;
  And while your eyes pierce deeper than my claws,
  You blame the effect of which you are the cause.

  _C_. How could my guiltless eyes your heart invade,
  Had it not first been by your own betrayed?
  Hence 'tis, my greatest crime has only been
  (Not in mine eyes, but yours) in being seen.

  _P_. I hurt to love, but do not love to hurt.

  _C_. That's worse than making cruelty a sport.

  _P_. Pain is the foil of pleasure and delight,
  That sets it off to a more noble height.

  _C_. He buys his pleasure at a rate too vain,
  That takes it up beforehand of his pain.

  _P_. Pain is more dear than pleasure when 'tis past.

  _C_. But grows intolerable if it last," etc.

[2] Life of Lope de Vega, p. 208.

[3] Dryden was severely censured by the critics for his supernatural
persons, and ironically described as the "man, nature seemed to make
choice of to enlarge the poet's empire and to complete those discoveries
others had begun to shadow. That Shakespeare and Fletcher (as some
think) erected the pillars of poetry, is a grosse errour; this Zany of
Columbus has discovered a poeticall world of greater extent than the
naturall, peopled with Atlantick colonies of notionall creatures,
astrall spirits, ghosts, and idols, more various than ever the Indians
worshipt, and heroes more lawless than their savages."--_Censure of
the Rota_.

[4] His mistress having fallen in love with a disguised barber, a less
polished rival exclaims,--

  "_Sir Hum_. Nay, for my part, madam, if you must love a cudgelled
  barber, and take him for a valiant count, make much of him; I shall
  desist: there are more ladies, heaven be thanked.

  "_Trim_. Yes, sir, there are more ladies; but if any man affirms
  that my fair Dorinda has an equal, I thus fling down my glove, and do
  demand the combat for her honour.--This is a nice point of honour I
  have hit."--_Bury Fair_.

[5] The author of the "Friendly Vindication of Mr. Dryden from the
Censure of the Rota" (Cambridge, 1673) mentions, "his humble and
supplicant addresses to men and ladies of honour, to whom he presented
the most of his plays to be read, and so passing through their families,
to comply with their censures before-hand; confessing ingenuously, that
had he ventured his wits upon the tenter-hooks of Fortune (like other
poets who depended more upon the merits of their pens), he had been more
severely entangled in his own lines long ago."--Page 7.

[6] Of this want of talent the reader may find sufficient proof in the
extracts from his Grace's reflections upon "Absalom and Achitophel."

[7] See "Key to the Rehearsal." "Our most noble author, to manifest his
just indignation and hatred of this fulsome new way of writing, used his
utmost interest and endeavours to stifle it at its first appearance on
the stage, by engaging all his friends to explode and run down these
plays; especially the 'United Kingdoms,' which had like to have brought
his life into danger.

"The author of it being nobly born, of an ancient and numerous family,
had many of his relations and friends in the cock-pit during the acting
of it. Some of them perceiving his Grace to head a party, who were very
active in damning the play, by hissing and laughing immoderately at the
strange conduct thereof, there were persons laid wait for him as he came
out; but there being a great tumult and uproar in the house and the
passages near it, he escaped; but he was threatened hard. However, the
business was composed in a short time, though by what means I have not
been informed." The trade of criticism was not uniformly safe in these
days. In the Preface to the "Reformation," a beau is only directed to
venture to abuse a new play, _if he knows, the author is no fighter._

[8] [Scott has Dryden's authority (in the letter to Hyde already
referred to) for this word, but it is pretty certainly rhetorical. See
article on "Butler," by the present writer, in the _Encyclopaedia
Britannica_, ninth edition.--ED.]

[9] [It may be well to mention that the editions of the "Rehearsal" are
very numerous, and that fresh parodies of fresh plays as they appeared
were incorporated in them. Scott does not seem to have been fully aware
of this.--ED.]

[10] Preface to "An Evening's Love."

[11] Mr. Malone inclines to think there is no allusion to "Marriage à la
Mode" in the "Rehearsal." But surely the whimsical distress of Prince
Prettyman, "sometimes a fisher's son, sometimes a prince," is precisely
that of Leonidas, who is first introduced as the son of a shepherd;
secondly, discovered to be the son of an unlawful king called Polydamas;
thirdly, proved anew to be the son of the shepherd, and finally proved
to be the son of neither of them, but of the lawful king, Theogenes.
Besides, the author of the "Key to the Rehearsal" points out a parallel
between the revolution of state in the farce, and that by which
Leonidas, after being carried off to execution, on a sudden snatches a
sword from one of the guards, proclaims himself rightful king, and,
without more ceremony, deposes the powerful and jealous usurper, who had
sentenced him to death.

[12] Spence's "Anecdotes," quoted by Mr. Malone, vol. i. p. 106.

[13] "I answered not the 'Rehearsal,' because I knew the author sat to
himself when he drew the picture, and was the very Bayes of his own
farce; because also I knew, that my betters were more concerned than I
was in that satire; and, lastly, because Mr. Smith and Mr. Johnson, the
main pillars of it, were two such languishing gentlemen in their
conversation, that I could liken them to nothing but to their own
relations, those noble characters of men of wit and pleasure about the
town."--_Dedication to Juvenal_.

[14] The pains which Dryden bestowed on the character of Zimri, and the
esteem in which he held it, is evident from his quoting it as the
master-piece of his own satire. "The character of Zimri in my 'Absalom'
is, in my opinion, worth the whole poem: it is not bloody, but it is
ridiculous enough; and he, for him it was intended, was too witty to
resent it as an injury. If I had railed, I might have suffered for it
justly; but I managed my own work more happily, perhaps more
dexterously. I avoided the mention of great crimes, and applied myself
to the representing of blind-sides, and little extravagancies; to which,
the wittier a man is, he is generally the more obnoxious. It succeeded
as I wished; the jest went round, and he was laughed at in his turn who
began the frolic."

[15] In one of Cibber's moods of alteration, he combined the comic
scenes of these two plays into a comedy entitled, "The Comical Lovers."

  "You are changed too, and your pretence to see
  Is but a nobler name for charity;
  Your own provisions furnish out our feasts,
  While you, the founders, make yourselves the guests."--Vol. x.

  "Some have expected, from our bills to-day,
  To find a satire in our poet's ploy.
  The zealous route from Coleman street did run.
  To see the story of the Friar and Nun;
  Or tales yet more ridiculous to hear,
  Vouched by their vicar often pounds a-year,--
  Nuns who did against temptation pray,
  And discipline laid on the pleasant way:
  Or that, to please the malice of the town,
  Our poet should in some close cell have shown
  Some sister, playing at content alone.
  This they did hope; the other side did fear;
  And both, you see, alike are cozened here."

  "_Bayes._ I remember once, in a play of mine, I set off a scene,
  i'gad, beyond expectation, only with a petticoat and the belly-ache.

  _Smith_. Pray, how was that, sir?

  _Bayes_. Why, sir, I contrived a petticoat to be brought in upon
  a chair (nobody knew how), into a prince's chamber, whose father was
  now to see it, that came in by chance.

  _Johns_. God's-my-life, that was a notable contrivance indeed!

  _Smith_. Ay, but, Mr. Bayes, how could you contrive the

  _Bayes._ The easiest i' the world, i'gad: I'll tell you how; I
  made the prince sit down upon the petticoat, no more than so, and
  pretended to his father that he had just then got the belly-ache;
  whereupon his father went out to call a physician, and his man ran
  away with the petticoat."--_Rehearsal_.

[19] Not Matthew, but Martin, as it is correctly printed before.--Ed.

[20] "To begin with your character of Almanzor, which you avow to have
taken from the Achilles in Homer; pray hear what Famianus Strada says of
such talkers as Mr. Dryden: _Ridere soleo, cum video homines ab Homeri
virtibus strenue declinates, si quid vero irrepsi vitii, id avide
arripientes._ But I might have spared this quotation, and you your
avowing; for this character might as well have been borrowed from some
of the stalls in Bedlam, or any of your own hair-brained cox-combs which
you call heroes, and persons of honour. I remember just such another
fuming Achilles in Shakespeare, one ancient Pistol, whom he avows to be
a man of so fiery a temper, and so impatient of an injury, even from Sir
John Falstaff his captain, and a knight, that he not only disobeyed his
commands about carrying a letter to Mrs. Page, but returned him an
answer as full of contumely, and in as opprobrious terms, as he could

  'Let vultures gripe thy guts, for gourd and Fullam holds,
  And high and low beguiles the rich and poor.
  Tester I'll have in pouch, when thou shalt lack,
  Base Phrygian Turk,' etc.

"Let's see e'er an Abencerrago fly a higher pitch. Take him at another
turn, quarrelling with corporal Nym and old Zegri: The difference arose
about mine hostess Quickly (for I would not give a rush for a man unless
he be particular in matters of this moment); they both aimed at her
body, but Abencerrago Pistol defies his rival in these words:

  'Fetch from the powdering-tub of infamy
  That lazar-kite of Cressid's kind,
  Doll Tearsheet, she by name, and her espouse:
  I have, and I will hold,
  The quondam Quickly for the only she.
  And _pauca_.'

There's enough. Does not quotation sound as well as I[20a]?

"But the four sons of Aminon, the three bold Beachams, the four London
Prentices, Tamerlain, the Scythian Shepherd, Muleasses, Amurath, and
Bajazet, or any raging Turk at the Red-bull and Fortune, might as well
have been urged by you as a pattern of your Almanzor, as the Achilles in
Homer; but then our laureate had not passed for so learned a man as he
desires his unlearned admirers should esteem him.

"But I am strangely mistaken, if I have not seen this very Almanzor of
your's in some disguise about this town, and passing under another name.
Prithee tell me true, was not this huff-cap once the Indian Emperor,
and, at another time, did not he call himself Maximme? Was not Lyndaraxa
once called Almeria, I mean under Montezuma the Indian Emperor? I
protest and vow they are either the same, or so alike, that I can't for
my heart distinguish one from the other. You are, therefore, a strange
unconscionable thief, that art not content to steal from others, but
do'st rob thy poor wretched self too."

[20a] [There is no I in the original where Clifford quotes:

  [Greek: Oinobares, kunos ommat echon kradiaen d elaphoio.
  Daemoboros basileus.]

I owe my copy of this curious monument of belated spite to the kindness
of Mr. Austin Dobson.--ED.]

[21] "Amongst several other late exercises of the Athenian virtuosi in
the Coffee-academy, instituted by Apollo for the advancement of Gazette
Philosophy, Mercury's, Diurnalli, etc., this day was wholly taken up in
the examination of the 'Conquest of Granada.' A gentleman on the reading
of the First Part, and there in the description of the bull-baiting,
said, that Almanzor's playing at the bull was according to the standard
of the Greek heroes, who, as Mr. Dryden had learnedly observed (Essay
of Dramatic Poesy), were great beef-eaters. And why might not Almanzor
as well as Ajax, or Don Quixote, worry mutton, or take a bull by the
throat, since the author had elsewhere explained himself, by telling us
the heroes were more noble beasts of prey, in his Epistle to his
'Conquest of Granada,' distinguishing them into wild and tame; and in
his play we have Almanzor shaking his chains, and frighting his keeper,
broke loose, and tearing those that would reclaim his rage. To this he
added, that his bulls excelled other heroes, as far as his own heroes
surpassed his gods; that the champion bull was divested of flesh and
blood, and made immortal by the poet, and bellowed after death; that
the fantastic bull seemed fiercer than the true, and the dead
bellowings in verse were louder than the living; concluding with a
wish, that Mr. Dryden had the good luck to have varied that old verse
quoted in his dramatic essay:

  '_Atque Ursum, el Pugiles media inter carmina poscunt
  Tauros, et Pugiles pruna inter carmina posco_;'

and prefixed it to the front of his play, instead of

  '_Major rerum mihi nascitur ordo,
  Majus ojius moveo_.'"

--_Censure of the Rota_, p. 1.

[22] "But however, if he were taken for no good comic poet, or satirist,
he had found a way of much easier licence (though more remarkable in the
sense of some), which was, not only to libel men's persons, but to
represent them on the stage too. That to this purpose he made his
observations of men, their words, and actions, with so little disguise,
that many beheld themselves acted for their half-crown; yet, after all,
was unwilling to believe, that this was not both good comedy, and no
less good manners."--_Friendly Vindication of Mr. Dryden_, p. 8.

[23]  Dedication to the "Assignation."

[24] Dryden either confines himself to two pamphlets, or, more probably,
speaks of the three as written by only two authors. Leigh is, I presume,
the contemptible pedant, and the Sir Fastidious Brisk of Oxford. The
Cambridge author, who imitated his style, is the Fungoso of the
Dedication:--"As for the errors they pretend to find in me, I could
easily show them that the greatest part of them are beauties; and for
the rest, I could recriminate upon the best poets of our nation, if I
could resolve to accuse another of little faults, whom at the same time
I admire for greater excellencies. But I have neither concernment enough
upon me to write any thing in my own defence, neither will I gratify the
ambition of two wretched scribblers, who desire nothing more than to be
answered. I have not wanted friends, even amongst strangers, who have
defended me more strongly than my contemptible pedant could attack me;
for the other, he is only like Fungoso in the play, who follows the
fashion at a distance, and adores the Fastidious Brisk of Oxford. You
can bear me witness, that I have not consideration enough for either of
them to be angry: let Mævius and Bavius admire each other; I wish to be
hated by them and their fellows, by the same reason for which I desire
to be loved by you."--_Dedication to the Assignation_, vol. iv.

[25] A student of law in the Temple, and author of that notable
alteration of "Titus Andronicus" mentioned in the commentaries on
Shakespeare. Besides the "Citizen turned Gentleman," he wrote the
"Careless Lovers," "Scaramouch, a Philosopher," the "Wrangling Lovers,"
"Edgar and Alfreda," the "English Lawyer," the "London Cuckolds,"
distinguished by Cibber as the grossest play that ever succeeded, "Dame
Dobson," the said alteration of "Titus Andronicus," the "Canterbury
Guests," and the "Italian Husband,"--in all twelve plays, not one of
which has the least merit.

  "An author did, to please you, let his wit run,
  Of late, much on a serving-man and cittern;
  And yet, you would not like the serenade,--
  Nay, and you damned his nuns in masquerade;
  You did his Spanish sing-song too abhor;
  _Ah! que locura con tanto rigor!_
  In fine, the whole by you so much was blamed,
  To act their parts, the players were ashamed.
  Ah, how severe your malice was that day!
  To damn, at once, the poet and his play:
  But why was your rage just at that time shown,
  When what the author writ was all his own?
  Till then, he borrowed from romance, and did translate;
  And those plays found a mere indulgent fate."

[27] "For my own part, I, who am the least among the poets, have yet the
fortune to be honoured with the _best patron_, and the best friend; for
(to omit some great persons of our court, to whom I am many ways
obliged, and who have taken care of me during the exigencies of a war.)
I have found a better Maecenas in the person of my Lord Treasurer
Clifford, and a more elegant Tibullus in that of Sir Charles Sedley."--
_Dedication to the Assignation_.

[28] In his Dedication of the Pastorals of Virgil to Hugh Lord Clifford,
he says: "I have no reason to complain of fortune, since, in the midst
of that abundance, I could not have chosen better than the worthy son of
so illustrious a father. He was the patron of my manhood, when I
flourished in the opinion of the world, though with small advantage to
my fortune, till he awakened the remembrance of my royal master. He was
that Pollio, or that Varus, _who introduced me to Augustus_."

[29] The elder Richardson has told a story, that Lord Buckhurst,
afterwards Earl of Dorset, was the first who introduced the "Paradise
Lost," then lying like waste paper in the bookseller's hands, to the
notice of Dryden. But this tradition has been justly exploded by Mr.
Malone, _Life of Dryden_, vol. i. p. 114. Indeed it is by no means
likely that Dryden could be a stranger to the very existence of a large
poem, written by a man of such political as well as literary eminence,
even if he had not happened, as was the case, to be personally known to
the author. [The various legends as to Dryden and "Paradise Lost,"
Dorset and "Paradise Lost," etc., are well handled by Professor Masson,
_Life of Milton_, vol. vi. pp. 628-635.--ED.]

[30] Dennis's Letters, quoted by Malone.

  "With thee conversing, I forget all time,
  All seasons, and their change; all please alike:
  Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet,
  With charm of earliest birds: pleasant the sun,
  When first on this delightful land he spreads
  His orient beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flower,
  Glist'ning with dew: fragrant the fertile earth
  After soft showers, and sweet the coming on
  Of grateful evening mild: then, silent night,
  With this her solemn bird, and this fair moon,
  And these the gems of heaven, her starry train:
  But neither breath of morn, when she ascends
  With charm of earliest birds; nor rising sun
  On this delightful land; nor herb, fruit, flower,
  Glist'ning with dew; nor fragrance after showers;
  Nor grateful evening mild; nor silent night,
  With this her solemn bird; nor walk by moon;
  Or glittering star-light, without thee is sweet."

"The variety of images in this passage is infinitely pleasing, and the
recapitulation of each particular image, with a little varying of the
expression, makes one of the finest turns of words that I have ever
seen; which I rather mention, because Mr. Dryden has said, in his
Preface to Juvenal, that he could meet with no turn of words in
Milton."--_Tatler_, No. 114.

[32] See this Epistle. It was prefixed to "Alexander the Great;" a play,
the merits and faults of which are both in extreme.


_Dryden's Controversy with Settle--with Rochester--He is assaulted in
Rose-street--Aureng-Zebe--Dryden meditates an Epic Poem--All for Love--
Limberham--Oedipus--Troilus and Cressida--The Spanish Friar--Dryden
supposed to be in opposition to the Court._

"The State of Innocence" was published in 1674, and "Aureng-Zebe,"
Dryden's next tragedy, appeared in 1675. In the interval, he informs us,
his ardour for rhyming plays had considerably abated. The course of
study which he imposed on himself doubtless led him to this conclusion.
But it is also possible, that he found the peculiar facilities of that
drama had excited the emulation of very inferior poets, who, by dint of
show, rant, and clamorous hexameters, were likely to divide with him the
public favour. Before proceeding, therefore, to state the gradual
alteration in Dryden's own taste, we must perform the task of detailing
the literary quarrels in which he was at this period engaged. The chief
of his rivals was Elkanah Settle, a person afterwards utterly
contemptible; but who, first by the strength of a party at court, and
afterwards by a faction in the state, was, for a time, buoyed up in
opposition to Dryden. It is impossible to detail the progress of the
contest for public favour between these two ill-matched rivals, without
noticing at the same time Dryden's quarrel with Rochester, who appears
to have played off Settle in opposition to him, as absolutely, and
nearly as successfully, as Settle ever played off the literary
[literal?] puppets, for which, in the ebb of his fortune, he
wrote dramas.

In the year 1673, Dryden and Rochester were on such friendly terms, that
our poet inscribed to his lordship his favourite play of "Marriage à la
Mode;" not without acknowledgment of the deepest gratitude for favours
done to his fortune and reputation. The dedication, we have seen, was so
favourably accepted by Rochester, that the reception called forth a
second tribute of thanks from the poet to the patron. But at this point,
the interchange of kindness and of civility received a sudden and
irrecoverable check. This was partly owing to Rochester's fickle and
jealous temper, which induced him alternately to raise and depress the
men of parts whom he loved to patronise; so that no one should ever
become independent of his favour, or so rooted in the public opinion as
to be beyond the reach of his satire; but it may also in part be
attributed to Dryden's attachment to Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave,
afterwards Duke of Buckingham, then Rochester's rival in wit and
court-favour, and from whom he had sustained a deadly affront, on an
occasion, which, as the remote cause of a curious incident in Dryden's
life, I have elsewhere detailed in the words of Sheffield himself.
Rochester, who was branded as a coward in consequence of this
transaction, must be reasonably supposed to entertain a sincere hatred
against Mulgrave; with whom he had once lived on such friendly terms as
to inscribe to him an Epistle on their mutual poems. But, as his nerves
had proved unequal to a personal conflict with his brother peer, his
malice prompted the discharge of his spleen upon those men of literature
whom his antagonist cherished and patronised. Among these Dryden held a
distinguished situation; for about 1675 he was, as we shall presently
see, sufficiently in Sheffield's confidence to correct and revise that
nobleman's poetry;[1] and in 1676 dedicated to him the tragedy of
"Aureng-Zebe," as one who enjoyed not only his favour, but his love and
conversation. Thus Dryden was obnoxious to Rochester, both as holding a
station among the authors of the period, grievous to the vanity of one
who aimed, by a levelling and dividing system, to be the tyrant, or at
least the dictator, of wit; and also as the friend, and even the
confidant, of Mulgrave, by whom the witty profligate had been baffled
and humiliated. Dryden was therefore to be lowered in the public
opinion; and for this purpose, Rochester made use of Elkanah Settle,
whom, though he gratified his malice by placing him in opposition to
Dryden, he must, in his heart, have thoroughly despised.[2]

This playwright, whom the jealous spleen of a favourite courtier, and
the misjudging taste of a promiscuous audience, placed for some time in
so high a station, came into notice in 1671, on the representation of
his first play, "Cambyses, King of Persia," which was played six nights
successively. This run of public favour gave Rochester some pretence to
bring Settle to the notice of the king; and, through the efforts of this
mischievous wit, joined to the natural disposition of the people to be
carried by show, rant, and tumult, Settle's second play, "The Empress of
Morocco," was acted with unanimous and overpowering applause for a month
together. To add to Dryden's mortification, Rochester had interest
enough to have this tragedy of one whom he had elevated into the rank of
his rival, first acted at Whitehall by the lords and ladies of the
court; an honour which had never been paid to any of Dryden's
compositions, however more justly entitled to it, both from intrinsic
merit, and by the author's situation as poet-laureate. Rochester
contributed a prologue upon this brilliant occasion to add still more
grace to Settle's triumph; but what seems yet more extraordinary, and
has, I think, been unnoticed in all accounts of the controversy,
Mulgrave,[3] Rochester's rival and the friend of Dryden, did the same
homage to "The Empress of Morocco." From the king's private theatre,
"The Empress of Morocco" was transferred, in all its honours, to the
public stage in Dorset Gardens, and received with applause corresponding
to the expectation excited by its favour at Whitehall. While the court
and city were thus worshipping the idol which Rochester had set up, it
could hardly be expected of poor Settle, that he should be first to
discern his own want of desert. On the contrary, he grew presumptuous on
success; and when he printed his performance, the dedication to the Earl
of Norwich was directly levelled against the poet-laureate who termed it
the "most arrogant, calumniatory, ill-mannered, and senseless preface he
ever saw."[4] And, to add gall to bitterness, the bookseller thought
"The Empress of Morocco" worthy of being decorated with engravings, and
sold at the advanced price of two shillings; being the first drama
advanced to such honourable distinction.[5] Moreover, the play is
ostentatiously stated in the title to be written by Elkanah Settle,
_Servant to His Majesty_;[6] an addition which the laureate had assumed
with greater propriety.

If we are asked the merit of a performance which made such an impression
at the time, we may borrow an expression applied to a certain orator,[7]
and say, that "The Empress of Morocco" must have acted _to the tune_ of
a good heroic play. It had all the outward and visible requisites of
splendid scenery, prisons, palaces, fleets, combats of desperate
duration and uncertain issue,[8] assassinations, a dancing tree, a
rainbow, a shower of hail, a criminal executed,[9] and hell itself
opening upon the stage. The rhyming dialogue too, in which the play was
written, had an imperative and tyrannical sound; and to a foreigner,
ignorant of the language, might have appeared as magnificent as that of
Dryden. But it must raise our admiration, that the witty court of
Charles could patiently listen to a "tale told by an idiot, full of
noise and fury, signifying nothing," and give it a preference over the
poetry of Dryden. The following description of a hail-storm will
vindicate our wonder:

  "This morning, as our eyes we upward cast,
  The desert regions of the air lay waste.
  But straight, as if it had some penance bore,
  A mourning garb of thick black clouds it wore.
  But on the sudden,
  Some aery demon changed its form, and now
  That which looked black above looked white below;
  The clouds dishevelled from their crusted locks,
  Something like gems coined out of crystal rocks.
  The ground was with this strange bright issue spread,
  As if heaven in affront to nature had
  Designed some new-found tillage of its own,
  And on the earth these unknown seeds had sown.
  Of these I reached a grain, which to my sense
  Appeared as cool as virgin-innocence;
  And like that too (which chiefly I admired),
  Its ravished whiteness with a touch expired.
  At the approach of heat, this candid rain
  Dissolved to its first element again.

  _Muly-H._ Though showers of hail Morocco never see,
  Dull priest, what does all this portend to me?

  _Ham_. It does portend--

  _Muly._ What?

  _Ham_. That the fates design--

  _Muly_. To tire me with impertinence like thine."

Such were the strains once preferred to the magnificent verses of
Dryden; whose very worst bombast is sublimity compared to them. To prove
which, the reader need only peruse the Indian's account of the Spanish
fleet in the "Indian Emperor," to which the above lines are a parallel;
each being the description of an object familiar to the audience, but
new to the describer. The poet felt the disgraceful preference more
deeply than was altogether becoming; but he had levelled his powers,
says Johnson, when he levelled his desires to those of Settle, and
placed his happiness in the claps of multitudes. The moral may be
carried yet further; for had not Dryden stooped to call to the aid of
his poetry the auxiliaries of scenery, gilded truncheons, and verse of
more noise than meaning, it is impossible his plays could have been
drawn into comparison with those of Settle. But the meretricious
ornaments which he himself had introduced were within the reach of the
meanest capacity; and, having been among the first to debauch the taste
of the public, it was retributive justice that he should experience
their inconstancy. Indeed Dryden seems himself to admit, that the
principal difference between his heroic plays and "The Empress of
Morocco," was, that the former were good sense, that looked like
nonsense, and the latter nonsense, which yet looked very like sense. A
nice distinction, and which argued some regret at having opened the way
to such a rival.

The feelings of contempt ought to have suppressed those of anger; but
Dryden, who professedly lived to please his own age, had not temper to
wait till time should do him justice. Angry he was; and unfortunately he
determined to shew the world that he did well in being so. With this
view, in conjunction with Shadwell and Crowne, two brother-dramatists,
equally jealous of Settle's success, he composed a pamphlet, entitled
"Remarks upon the Empress of Morocco." This piece is written in the same
tone of boisterous and vulgar raillery with which Clifford and Leigh had
assailed Dryden himself; and little resembles our poet's general style
of controversy. He seems to have exchanged his satirical scourge for the
clumsy flail of Shadwell, when he stooped to use such raillery as the
following description of Settle: "In short, he is an animal of a most
deplored understanding, without reading and conversation: his being is
in a twilight of sense, and some glimmering of thought, which he can
never fashion either into wit or English. His style is boisterous and
rough-hewn; his rhyme incorrigibly lewd, and his numbers perpetually
harsh and ill-sounding."

Settle, nothing dismayed with this vehement attack, manfully retorted
the abuse which had been thrown upon him, and answered the insulting
clamour of his three antagonists with clamorous insult.[10] It was
obvious that the weaker poet must be the winner by this contest in
abuse; and Dryden gained no more by his dispute with Settle, than a
well-dressed man who should condescend to wrestle with a
chimney-sweeper. The feud between them was carried no further, until,
after the publication of "Absalom and Achitophel," party animosity added
spurs to literary rivalry.

We must now return to Rochester, who, observing Settle's rise to his
unmerited elevation in the public opinion, became as anxious to lower
his presumption as he had formerly been to diminish the reputation of
Dryden. With this view, that tyrannical person of honour availed himself
of his credit to recommend Crowne to write the masque of "Calisto,"
which was acted by the lords and ladies of the court of Charles in 1675.
Nothing could be more galling towards Dryden, a part of whose duty as
poet-laureate was to compose the pieces designed for such occasions.
Crowne, though he was a tolerable comic writer,[11] had no turn whatever
for tragedy, or indeed for poetry of any kind. But the splendour of the
scenery and dresses, the quality of the performers, selected from the
first nobility, and the favour of the sovereign, gave "Calisto" a run of
nearly thirty nights. Dryden, though mortified, tendered his services in
the shape of an epilogue, to be spoken by Lady Henrietta Maria
Wentworth.[12] But the influence of his enemy, Rochester, was still
predominant, and the epilogue of the laureate was rejected.[13]

The author of "Calisto" also lost his credit with Rochester, so soon as
he became generally popular; and shortly after the representation of
that piece, its fickle patron seems to have recommended to the royal
protection, a rival more formidable to Dryden than either Settle or
"starch Johnny Crowne."[14] This was no other than Otway, whose "Don
Carlos" appeared in 1676, and was hailed as one of the best heroic plays
which had been written. The author avows in his preface the obligations
he owed to Rochester, who had recommended him to the king and the duke,
to whose favour he owed his good success, and on whose indulgence he
reckoned as insuring that of his next attempt.[15] These effusions of
gratitude did not, as Mr. Malone observes, withhold Rochester, shortly
after, from lampooning Otway, with circumstances of gross insult, in the
"Session of the Poets."[16] In the same preface, Otway, in very
intelligible language, bade defiance to Dryden whom he charges with
having spoken slightly of his play.[17] But although Dryden did not
admire the general structure of Otway's poetry, he is said, even at this
time, to have borne witness to his power of moving the passions; an
acknowledgment which he long afterwards solemnly repeated. Thus Otway,
like many others, mistook the character of a pretended friend, and did
injustice to that of a liberal rival. Dryden and he indeed never appear
to have been personal friends, even when they both wrote in the Tory
interest. It was probably about this time that Otway challenged Settle,
whose courage appears to have failed him upon the occasion.

Rochester was not content with exciting rivals against Dryden in the
public opinion, but assailed him personally in an imitation of Horace,
which he quaintly entitled, "An Allusion to the Tenth Satire." It came
out anonymously about 1678, but the town was at no loss to guess that
Rochester was the patron or author. Much of the satire was bestowed on
Dryden, whom Rochester for the first time distinguishes by a ridiculous
nickname, which was afterwards echoed by imitating dunces in all their
lampoons. The lines are more cutting, because mingled with as much
praise as the writer probably thought necessary to gain the credit of a
candid critic.[18] Dryden, on his part, did not view with indifference
these repeated direct and indirect attacks on his literary reputation by
Rochester. In the preface to "All for Love," published in 1678, he gives
a severe rebuke to those men of rank, who, having acquired the credit of
wit, either by virtue of their quality, or by common fame, and finding
themselves possessed of some smattering of Latin, become ambitious to
distinguish themselves by their poetry from the herd of gentlemen. "And
is not this," he exclaims, "a wretched affectation, not to be contented
with what fortune has done for them, and sit down quietly with their
estates, but they must call their wits in question, and needlessly
expose their nakedness to public view? Not considering that they are
not to expect the same approbation from sober men, which they have found
from their flatterers after the third bottle. If a little glittering in
discourse has passed them on us for witty men, where was the necessity
of undeceiving the world? Would a man who has an ill title to an estate,
but yet is in possession of it; would he bring it of his own accord to
be tried at Westminster? We who write, if we want the talent, yet have
the excuse, that we do it for a poor subsistence; but what can be urged
in their defence, who, not having the vocation of poverty to scribble
out of mere wantonness, take pains to make themselves ridiculous? Horace
was certainly in the right, where he said, 'That no man is satisfied
with his own condition.' A poet is not pleased, because he is not rich;
and the rich are discontented, because the poets will not admit them of
their number. Thus the case is hard with writers: if they succeed not,
they must starve; and if they do, some malicious satire is prepared to
level them, for daring to please without their leave. But while they are
so eager to destroy the fame of others, their ambition is manifest in
their concernment; some poem of their own is to be produced, and the
slaves are to be laid flat with their faces on the ground, that the
monarch may appear in the greater majesty." This general censure of the
persons of wit and honour about town, is fixed on Rochester in
particular not only by the marked allusion in the last sentence, to the
despotic tyranny which he claimed over the authors of his time, but also
by a direct attack upon such imitators of Horace, who make doggrel of
his Latin, misapply his censures, and often contradict their own. It is
remarkable, however, that he ascribes this imitation rather to some zany
of the great, than to one of their number; and seems to have thought
Rochester rather the patron than the author.

At the expense of anticipating the order of events, and that we may
bring Dryden's dispute with Rochester to a conclusion, we must recall to
the reader's recollection our author's friendship with Mulgrave. This
appears to have been so intimate, that, in 1675, that nobleman intrusted
him with the task of revising his "Essay upon Satire:" a poem which
contained dishonourable mention of many courtiers of the time, and was
particularly severe on Sir Car Scrope and Rochester. The last of these
is taxed with cowardice, and a thousand odious and mean vices; upbraided
with the grossness and scurrility of his writings, and with the infamous
profligacy of his life.[19] The versification of the poem is as flat and
inharmonious, as the plan is careless and ill-arranged; and though the
imputation was to cost Dryden dear, I cannot think that any part of the
"Essay on Satire" received additions from his pen. Probably he might
contribute a few hints for revision; but the author of "Absalom and
Achitophel" could never completely disguise the powers which were
shortly to produce that brilliant satire. Dryden's verses must have
shone among Mulgrave's as gold beside copper. The whole Essay is a mere
stagnant level, no one part of it so far rising above the rest as to
bespeak the work of a superior hand. The thoughts, even when conceived
with some spirit, are clumsily and unhappily brought out; a fault never
to be traced in the beautiful language of Dryden, whose powers of
expression were at least equal to his force of conception. Besides, as
Mr. Malone has observed, he had now brought to the highest excellence
his system of versification; and is it possible he could neglect it so
far as to write the rugged lines in the note, where all manner of
elliptical barbarisms are resorted to, for squeezing the words into a
measure "lame and o'erburdened, and screaming its wretchedness"? The
"Essay on Satire" was finally subjected by the noble author to the
criticism of Pope, who, less scrupulous than Dryden, appears to have
made large improvements; but after having undergone the revision of two
of the first names in English poetry, it continues to be a very
indifferent performance.

In another point of view, it seems inconsistent with Dryden's situation
to suppose he had any active share in the "Essay on Satire." The
character of Charles is treated with great severity, as well as those of
the Duchesses of Portsmouth and Cleveland, the royal mistresses. This
was quite consistent with Mulgrave's disposition, who was at this time
discontented with the ministry; but certainly would not have beseemed
Dryden, who held an office at court. Sedley also, with whom Dryden
always seems to have lived on friendly terms, is harshly treated in the
"Essay on Satire." It may be owned, however, that these reasons were not
held powerful at the time, since they must, in that case, have saved
Dryden from the inconvenient suspicion which, we will presently see,
attached to him. The public were accustomed to see the friendship of
wits end in mutual satire; and the good-natured Charles was so generally
the subject of the ridicule which he loved, that no one seems to have
thought there was improbability in a libel being composed on him by his
own laureate.

The "Essay on Satire," though written, as appears from the title-page of
the last edition, in 1675, was not made public until 1679, when several
copies were handed about in manuscript. Rochester sends one of these to
his friend Henry Saville, on the 21st of November 1679, with this
observation:--"I have sent you herewith a libel, in which my own share
is not the least. The king, having perused it, is no way dissatisfied
with his. The author is apparently Mr. Dr[yden], his patron, Lord
M[ulgrave,] having a panegyric in the midst." From hence it is evident,
that Dryden obtained the reputation of being the author; in consequence
of which, Rochester meditated the base and cowardly revenge which he
afterwards executed; and he thus coolly expressed his intention in
another of his letters:--"You write me word, that I'm out of favour with
a certain poet, whom I have admired for the disproportion of him and his
attributes. He is a rarity which I cannot but be fond of, as one would
be of a hog that could fiddle, or a singing owl. If he falls on me at
the blunt, which is his very good weapon in wit, I will forgive him if
you please; and _leave the repartee to black Will with a cudgel_."

In pursuance of this infamous resolution, Dryden, upon the night of the
18th December 1679, was waylaid by hired ruffians, and severely beaten,
as he passed through Rose-street, Covent-garden returning from Will's
Coffee-house to his own house in Gerrard-street. A reward of £50 was in
vain offered, in the London Gazette and other newspapers, for the
discovery of the perpetrators of this outrage.[20] The town was,
however, at no loss to pitch upon Rochester as the employer of the
bravoes, with whom the public suspicion joined the Duchess of
Portsmouth, equally concerned in the supposed affront thus avenged. In
our time, were a nobleman to have recourse to hired bravoes to avenge
his personal quarrel against any one, more especially a person holding
the rank of a gentleman, he might lay his account with being hunted out
of society. But in the age of Charles, the ancient high and chivalrous
sense of honour was esteemed Quixotic, and the civil war had left traces
of ferocity in the manners and sentiments of the people. Rencounters,
where the assailants took all advantages of number and weapons, were as
frequent, and held as honourable, as regular duels. Some of these
approached closely to assassination; as in the famous case of Sir John
Coventry, who was waylaid, and had his nose slit by some young men of
high rank, for a reflection upon the king's theatrical amours. This
occasioned the famous statute against maiming and wounding, called the
Coventry Act; an Act highly necessary, since so far did our ancestors'
ideas of manly forbearance differ from ours, that Killigrew introduces
the hero of one of his comedies, a cavalier, and the fine gentleman of
the piece, lying in wait for, and slashing the face of a poor courtezan,
who had cheated him.[21] It will certainly be admitted, that a man,
surprised in the dark and beaten by ruffians, loses no honour by such a
misfortune. But, if Dryden had received the same discipline from
Rochester's own hand without resenting it, his drubbing could not have
been more frequently made a matter of reproach to him;--a sign surely of
the penury of subjects for satire in his life and character, since an
accident, which might have happened to the greatest hero who ever lived,
was resorted to as an imputation on his honour. The Rose-alley ambuscade
became almost proverbial;[22] and even Mulgrave, the real author of the
satire, and upon whose shoulders the blows ought in justice to have
descended, mentions the circumstance in his "Art of Poetry;" with a cold
and self-sufficient complacent sneer:

  "Though praised and punished for another's rhymes,
  His own deserve as great applause _sometimes_."

To which is added in a note, "A libel for which he was both applauded
and wounded, though entirely ignorant of the whole matter." This flat
and conceited couplet, and note, the noble author judged it proper to
omit in the corrected edition of his poem. Otway alone, no longer the
friend of Rochester, and perhaps no longer the enemy of Dryden, has
spoken of the author of this dastardly outrage with the contempt his
cowardly malice deserved:

  "Poets in honour of the truth should write,
  With the same spirit brave men for it fight;
  And though against him causeless hatreds rise,
  And daily where he goes, of late, he spies
  The scowls of sullen and revengeful eyes;
  'Tis what he knows with much contempt to bear,
  And serves a cause too good to let him fear:
  He fears no poison from incensed drab,
  No ruffian's five-foot sword, nor rascal's stab;
  Nor any other snares of mischief laid,
  _Not a Rose-alley cudgel ambuscade_;
  From any private cause where malice reigns,
  Or general pique all blockheads have to brains."

It does not appear that Dryden ever thought it worth his while to take
revenge on Rochester; and the only allusion to him in his writings may
be found in the Essay prefixed to the translation of Juvenal, where he
is mentioned as a man of quality, whose ashes our author was unwilling
to disturb, and who had paid Dorset, to whom that piece is inscribed,
the highest compliment which his self-sufficiency could afford to any
one. Perhaps Dryden remembered Rochester among others, when, in the same
piece, he takes credit for resisting opportunities and temptation to
take revenge, even upon those by whom he had been notoriously and
wantonly provoked.[23]

The detail of these quarrels has interrupted our account of Dryden's
writings, which we are now to resume.

"Aureng-Zebe" was his first performance after the failure of the
"Assignation." It was acted in 1675 with general applause. "Aureng-Zebe"
is a heroic, or rhyming play, but not cast in a mould quite so romantic
as the "Conquest of Granada." There is a grave and moral turn in many of
the speeches, which brings it nearer the style of a French tragedy. It
is true, the character of Moral borders upon extravagance; but a certain
licence has been always given to theatrical tyrants, and we excuse
bombast in him more readily than in Almanzor. There is perhaps some
reason for this indulgence. The possession of unlimited power, vested in
active and mercurial characters, naturally drives them to an extravagant
indulgence of passion, bordering upon insanity; and it follows, that
their language must outstrip the modesty of nature. Propriety of diction
in the drama is relative, and to be referred more to individual
character than to general rules: to make a tyrant sober-minded is to
make a madman rational. But this discretion must be used with great
caution by the writer, lest he should confound the terrible with the
burlesque. Two great actors, Kynaston and Booth, differed in their style
of playing Morat.

The former, who was the original performer, and doubtless had his
instructions from the author, gave full force to the sentiments of
avowed and barbarous vainglory, which mark the character. When he is
determined to spare Aureng-Zebe, and Nourmahal pleads,

  "Twill not be safe to let him live an hour,"

Kynaston gave all the stern and haughty insolence of despotism to his

  "I'll do't to show my arbitrary power."[24]

But Booth, with modest caution, avoided marking and pressing upon the
audience a sentiment hovering between the comic and terrible, however
consonant to the character by whom it was delivered. The principal
incident in "Aureng-Zebe" was suggested by King Charles himself. The
tragedy is dedicated to Mulgrave, whose patronage had been so effectual,
as to introduce Dryden and his poetical schemes to the peculiar notice
of the king and duke. The dedication and the prologue of this piece
throw considerable light upon these plans, as well as upon the
revolution which had gradually taken place in Dryden's dramatic taste.

During the space which occurred between writing the "Conquest of
Granada" and "Aureng-Zebe", our author's researches into the nature and
causes of harmony of versification been unremitted, and he had probably
already collected the materials of his intended English _Prosodia_.
Besides this labour, he had been engaged in a closer and more critical
examination of the ancient English poets, than he had before bestowed
upon them. These studies seem to have led Dryden to two conclusions:
first, that the drama ought to be emancipated from the fetters of rhyme;
and secondly, that he ought to employ the system of versification, which
he had now perfected, to the more legitimate purpose of epic poetry.
Each of these opinions merits consideration.

However hardily Dryden stood forward in defence of the heroic plays, he
confessed, even in the heat of argument, that Rhyme, though he was brave
and generous, and his dominion pleasing, had still somewhat of the
usurper in him. A more minute inquiry seems to have still further
demonstrated the weakness of this usurped dominion; and our author's
good taste and practice speedily pointed out deficiencies and
difficulties, which Sir Robert Howard, against whom he defended the use
of rhyme, could not show, because he never aimed at the excellencies
which they impeded. The perusal of Shakespeare, on whom Dryden had now
turned his attention, led him to feel, that something further might be
attained in tragedy than the expression of exaggerated sentiment in
smooth verse, and that the scene ought to represent not a fanciful set
of agents exerting their superhuman faculties in a fairy-land of the
poet's own creation, but human characters, acting from the direct and
energetic influence of human passions, with whose emotions the audience
might sympathise, because akin to the feelings of their own hearts. When
Dryden had once discovered, that fear and pity were more likely to be
excited by other causes than the logic of metaphysical love, or the
dictates of fantastic honour, he must have found, that rhyme sounded as
unnatural in the dialogue of characters drawn upon the usual scale of
humanity, as the plate and mail of chivalry would have appeared on the
persons of the actors. The following lines of the Prologue to
"Aureng-Zebe," although prefixed to a rhyming play, the last which he
ever wrote, express Dryden's change of sentiment on these points:

  "Our author, by experience, finds it true,
  'Tis much more hard to please himself than you:
  And, out of no feigned modesty, this day
  Damns his laborious trifle of a play:
  Not that it's worse than what before he writ,
  But he has now another taste of wit;
  And, to confess a truth, though out of time,
  Grows weary of his long-loved mistress, Rhyme.
  Passion's too fierce to be in fetters bound,
  And Nature flies him like enchanted ground:
  What verse can do, he has performed in this,
  Which he presumes the most correct of his;
  But spite of all his pride, a secret shame
  Invades his breast at Shakespeare's sacred name:
  Awed when he hears his godlike Romans rage,
  He, in a just despair, would quit the stage;
  And to an age less polished, more unskilled,
  Does, with disdain, the foremost honours yield."

It is remarkable, as a trait of character, that, though our author
admitted his change of opinion on this long disputed point, he would not
consent that it should be imputed to any arguments which his opponents
had the wit to bring against him. On this subject he enters a protest in
the Preface to his revised edition of the "Essay of Dramatic Poesy" in
1684:--"I confess, I find many things in this discourse which I do not
now approve; my judgment being not a little altered since the writing of
it; but whether for the better or the worse, I know not: neither indeed
is it much material, in an essay, where all I have said is
problematical. For the way of writing plays in verse, which I have
seemed to favour, I have, since that time, laid the practice of it
aside, till I have more leisure, because I find it troublesome and slow:
but I am no way altered from my opinion of it, _at least with any
reasons which have opposed it_; for your lordship may easily observe,
that none are very violent against it, but those who either have not
attempted it, or who have succeeded ill in their attempt."[25] Thus
cautious was Dryden in not admitting a victory, even in a cause which,
he had surrendered.

But although the poet had admitted, that, with powers of versification
superior to those possessed by any earlier English author, and a taste
corrected by the laborious study both of the language and those who had
used it, he found rhyme unfit for the use of the drama, he at the same
time discovered a province where it might be employed in all its
splendour. We have the mortification to learn, from the Dedication of
"Aureng-Zebe," that Dryden only wanted encouragement to enter upon the
composition of an epic poem, and to abandon the thriftless task of
writing for the promiscuous audience of the theatre,--a task which,
rivalled as he had lately been by Crowne and Settle, he most justly
compares to the labour of Sisyphus. His plot, he elsewhere explains, was
to be founded either upon the story of Arthur, or of Edward the Black
Prince; and he mentions it to Mulgrave in the following remarkable
passage, which argues great dissatisfaction with dramatic labour,
arising perhaps from a combined feeling of the bad taste of rhyming
plays, the degrading dispute with Settle, and the failure of the
"Assignation," his last theatrical attempt:--"If I must be condemned to
rhyme, I should find some ease in my change of punishment. I desire to
be no longer the Sisyphus of the stage; to roll up a stone with endless
labour, which, to follow the proverb, _gathers no moss_; and which is
perpetually falling down again. I never thought myself very fit for an
employment, where many of my predecessors have excelled me in all kinds;
and some of my contemporaries, even in my own partial judgment, have
outdone me in comedy. Some little hopes I have yet remaining (and those
too, considering my abilities, may be vain), that I may make the world
some part of amends for my ill plays, by an heroic poem. Your lordship
has been long acquainted with my design; the subject of which you know
is great, the story English, and neither too far distant from the
present age, nor too near approaching it. Such it is in my opinion, that
I could not have wished a nobler occasion to do honour by it to my king,
my country, and my friends; most of our ancient nobility being concerned
in the action. And your lordship has one particular reason to promote
this undertaking because you were the first who gave me the opportunity
of discoursing it to his majesty, and his royal highness; they were then
pleased both to commend the design, and to encourage it by their
commands; but the unsettledness of my condition has hitherto put a stop
to my thoughts concerning it. As I am no successor to Homer in his wit,
so neither do I desire to be in his poverty. I can make no rhapsodies,
nor go a begging at the Grecian doors, while I sing the praises of their
ancestors. The times of Virgil please me better, because he had an
Augustus for his patron; and, to draw the allegory nearer you, I am sure
I shall not want a Maecenas with him. It is for your lordship to stir up
that remembrance in his majesty, which his many avocations of business
have caused him, I fear, to lay aside; and, as himself and his royal
brother are the heroes of the poem, to represent to them the images of
their warlike predecessors; as Achilles is said to be roused to glory
with the sight of the combat before the ships. For my own part, I am
satisfied to have offered the design; and it may be to the advantage of
my reputation to have it refused me."[26]

Dr. Johnson and Mr. Malone remark, that Dryden observes a mystery
concerning the subject of his intended epic, to prevent the risk of
being anticipated, as he finally was by Sir Richard Blackmore on the
topic of Arthur. This, as well as other passages in Dryden's life,
allows us the pleasing indulgence of praising the decency of our own
time. Were an author of distinguished merit to announce his having made
choice of a subject for a large poem, the writer would have more than
common confidence who should venture to forestall his labours. But, in
the seventeenth century, such an intimation would, it seems, have been
an instant signal for the herd of scribblers to souse upon it, like the
harpies on the feast of the Trojans, and leave its mangled relics too
polluted for the use of genius:--

  "_Turba sonans praedam pedibus circumvolat uncis;
  Polluit ore dopes_.

  _Semesam praedam et vestigia foeda relinquunt._"

"Aureng-Zebe" was followed, in 1678, by "All for Love," the only play
Dryden ever wrote for himself; the rest, he says, were given to the
people. The habitual study of Shakespeare, which seems lately to have
occasioned, at least greatly aided, the revolution in his taste, induced
him, among a crowd of emulous shooters, to try his strength in this bow
of Ulysses. I have, in some preliminary remarks to the play, endeavoured
to point out the difference between the manner of these great artists in
treating the misfortunes of Antony and Cleopatra.[27] If these are just,
we must allow Dryden the praise of greater regularity of plot, and a
happier combination of scene; but in sketching the character of Antony,
he loses the majestic and heroic tone which Shakespeare has assigned
him. There is too much of the love-lorn knight-errant, and too little of
the Roman warrior, in Dryden's hero. The love of Antony, however
overpowering and destructive in its effects, ought not to have resembled
the love of a sighing swain of Arcadia. This error in the original
conception of the character must doubtless be ascribed to Dryden's habit
of romantic composition. Montezuma and Almanzor were, like the prophet's
image, formed of a mixture of iron and clay; of stern and rigid
demeanour to all the universe, but unbounded devotion to the ladies of
their affections. In Antony, the first class of attributes are
discarded: he has none of that tumid and outrageous dignity which
characterised the heroes of the rhyming plays, and in its stead is
gifted with even more than an usual share of devoted attachment to his
mistress.[28] In the preface, Dryden piques himself upon venturing to
introduce the quarrelling scene between Octavia and Cleopatra, which a
French writer would have rejected, as contrary to the decorum of the
theatre. But our author's idea of female character was at all times low;
and the coarse, indecent violence, which he has thrown into the
expressions of a queen and a Roman matron, is misplaced and disgusting,
and contradicts the general and well-founded observation on the address
and self-command with which even women of ordinary dispositions can veil
mutual dislike and hatred, and the extreme keenness with which they can
arm their satire, while preserving all the external forms of civil
demeanour. But Dryden more than redeemed this error in the scene between
Antony and Ventidius, which he himself preferred to any that he ever
wrote, and perhaps with justice, if we except that between Dorax and
Sebastian: both are avowedly written in imitation of the quarrel between
Brutus and Cassius. "All for Love" was received by the public with
universal applause. Its success, with that of "Aureng-Zebe," gave fresh
lustre to the author's reputation, which had been somewhat tarnished by
the failure of the "Assignation," and the rise of so many rival
dramatists. We learn from the Players' petition to the Lord Chamberlain,
that "All for Love" was of service to the author's fortune as well as to
his fame, as he was permitted the benefit of a third night, in addition
to his profits as a sharer with the company.[29] The play was dedicated
to the Earl of Danby, then a minister in high power, but who, in the
course of a few months, was disgraced and imprisoned at the suit of the
Commons. As Danby was a great advocate for prerogative, Dryden fails not
to approach him with an encomium on monarchical government, as regulated
and circumscribed by law. In reprobating the schemes of those
innovators, who, surfeiting on happiness, endeavoured to persuade their
fellow-subjects to risk a change, he has a pointed allusion to the Earl
of Shaftesbury, who, having left the royal councils in disgrace, was now
at the head of the popular faction.

In 1678 Dryden's next play, a comedy, entitled "Limberham," was acted at
Dorset-garden theatre, but was endured for three nights only. It was
designed, the author informs us, as a satire on "the crying sin of
keeping;" and the crime for which it suffered was, that "it expressed
too much of the vice which it decried." Grossly indelicate as this play
still is, it would seem, from the Dedication to Lord Vaughan, that much
which offended on the stage was altered, or omitted, in the press;[30]
yet more than enough remains to justify the sentence pronounced against
it by the public. Mr. Malone seems to suppose Shaftesbury's party had
some share in its fate, supposing that the character of Limberham had
reference to their leader. Yet surely, although Shaftesbury was
ridiculous for aiming at gallantry, from which his age and personal
infirmity should have deterred him, Dryden would never have drawn the
witty, artful politician, as a silly, henpecked cully. Besides, Dryden
was about this time supposed even himself to have some leaning to the
popular cause; a supposition irreconcilable with his caricaturing the
foibles of Shaftesbury.

The tragedy of "Oedipus" was written by Dryden in conjunction with Lee;
the entire first and third acts were the work of our author, who also
arranged the general plan, and corrected the whole piece. Having offered
some observations[31] elsewhere upon this play, and the mode in which
its celebrated theme has been treated by the dramatists of different
nations, I need not here resume the subject. The time of the first
representation is fixed to the beginning of the playing season, in
winter 1678-9, although it was not printed until 1679.[32] Both
"Limberham" and "Oedipus" were acted at the Duke's theatre; so that it
would seem that our author was relieved from his contract with the
King's house, probably because the shares were so much diminished in
value, that his appointment was now no adequate compensation for his
labour. The managers of the King's company complained to the Lord
Chamberlain, and endeavoured, as we have seen, by pleading upon the
contract, to assert their right to the play of "Oedipus."[33] But their
claim to reclaim the poet and the play appears to have been set aside,
and Dryden continued to give his performances to the Duke's theatre
until the union of the two companies.

Dryden was now to do a new homage to Shakespeare, by refitting for the
stage the play of "Troilus and Cressida," which the author left in a
state of strange imperfection, resembling more a chronicle, or legend,
than a dramatic piece. Yet it may be disputed whether Dryden has greatly
improved it even in the particulars which he censures in his original.
His plot, though more artificial, is at the same time more trite than
that of Shakespeare. The device by which Troilus is led to doubt the
constancy of Cressida is much less natural than that she should have
been actually inconstant; her vindication by suicide is a clumsy, as
well as a hackneyed expedient; and there is too much drum and trumpet in
the grand _finale_, where "Troilus and Diomede fight, and both parties
engage at the same time. The Trojans make the Greeks retire, and Troilus
makes Diomede give ground, and hurts him. Trumpets sound. Achilles
enters with his Myrmidons, on the backs of the Trojans, who fight in a
ring, encompassed round. Troilus, singling Diomede, gets him down, and
kills him; and Achilles kills Troilus upon him. All the Trojans die upon
the place, Troilus last." Such a _bellum internecinum_ can never be
waged to advantage upon the stage. One extravagant passage in this play
serves strongly to evince Dryden's rooted dislike to the clergy. Troilus

  "That I should trust the daughter of a priest!
  Priesthood, that makes a merchandise of heaven!
  Priesthood, that sells even to their prayers and blessings,
  And forces us to pay for our own cozenage!

  _Thersites_. Nay, cheats heaven too with entrails and with offals;
  Gives it the garbage of a sacrifice,
  And keeps the best for private luxury.

  Troilus_. Thou hast deserved thy life for cursing priests.
  Let me embrace thee; thou art beautiful:
  That back, that nose, those eyes are beautiful:
  Live; thou art honest, for thou hat'st a priest."

Dryden prefixed to "Troilus and Cressida" his excellent remarks on the
Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy, giving up, with dignified indifference
the faults even of his own pieces, when they contradict the rules his
later judgment had adopted. How much his taste had altered since his
"Essay of Dramatic Poesy," or at least since his "Remarks on Heroic
Plays," will appear from the following abridgment of his new maxims. The
plot, according to these remarks, ought to be simply and naturally
detailed from its commencement to its conclusion,--a rule which excluded
the crowded incidents of the Spanish drama; and the personages ought to
be dignified and virtuous, that their misfortunes might at once excite
pity and terror. The plots of Shakespeare and Fletcher are meted by this
rule, and pronounced inferior in mechanic regularity to those of Ben
Jonson. The character of the agents, or persons, are next to be
considered; and it is required that their manner shall be at once
marked, dramatic, consistent, and natural. And here the supereminent
power of Shakespeare, in displaying the manners, bent, and inclination
of his characters, is pointed out to the reader's admiration. The
copiousness of his invention, and his judgment in sustaining the ideas
which he started, are illustrated by referring to Caliban, a creature of
the fancy, begot by an incubus upon a witch, and furnished with a
person, language, and character befitting his pedigree on both sides.
The passions are then considered as included in the manners; and Dryden,
at once and peremptorily, condemns both the extravagance of language,
which substitutes noise for feeling, and those points and turns of wit,
which misbecome one actuated by real and deep emotion. He candidly gives
an example of the last error from his own Montezuma who, pursued by his
enemies, and excluded from the fort, describes his situation in a long
simile, taken besides from the sea, which he had only heard of for the
first time in the first act. As a description of natural passion, the
famous procession of King Richard in the train of the fortunate usurper
is quoted, in justice to the divine author. From these just and liberal
rules of criticism, it is easy to discover that Dryden had already
adopted a better taste, and was disgusted with comedies, where the
entertainment arose from bustling incident, and tragedies, where
sounding verse was substituted for the delineation of manners and
expression of feeling. These opinions he pointedly expresses in the
Prologue to "Troilus and Cressida," which was spoken by Betterton,
representing the ghost of Shakespeare:

  "See, my loved Britons, see your Shakespeare rise,
  An awful ghost confessed to human eyes!
  Unnamed, methinks, distinguished I had been,
  From other shades, by this eternal green,
  About whose wreaths the vulgar poets strive,
  And, with a touch, their withered bays revive.
  Untaught, unpractised, in a barbarous age,
  I found not, but created first the stage.
  And if I drained no Greek or Latin store,
  'Twas that my own abundance gave me more.
  On foreign trade I needed not rely,
  Like fruitful Britain, rich without supply.
  In this, my rough-drawn play, you shall behold
  Some master-strokes, so manly and so bold,
  That he who meant to alter, found 'em such;
  He shook, and thought it sacrilege to touch.
  Now, where are the successors to my name?
  What bring they to fill out a poet's fame?
  Weak, short-lived issues of a feeble age;
  Scarce living to be christened on the stage!
  For humour _farce_, for love they _rhyme_ dispense,
  That tolls the knell for their departed sense."

It is impossible to read these lines, remembering Dryden's earlier
opinions, without acknowledging the truth of the ancient proverb, _Magna
est veritas, et praevalebit_.

The "Spanish Friar," our author's most successful comedy, succeeded
"Troilus and Cressida." Without repeating the remarks which are prefixed
to the play in the present edition,[34] we may briefly notice, that in
the tragic scenes our author has attained that better strain of dramatic
poetry which he afterwards evinced in "Sebastian." In the comic part,
the well-known character of Father Dominic, though the conception only
embodies the abstract idea which the ignorant and prejudiced fanatics of
the day formed to themselves of a Romish priest, is brought out and
illustrated with peculiar spirit. The gluttony, avarice, debauchery, and
meanness of Dominic are qualified with the talent and wit necessary to
save him from being utterly detestable; and, from the beginning to the
end of the piece, these qualities are so happily tinged with insolence
hypocrisy, and irritability, that they cannot be mistaken for the
avarice, debauchery, gluttony, and meanness of any other profession than
that of a bad churchman. In the tragic plot, we principally admire the
general management of the opening, and chiefly censure the cold-blooded
barbarity and perfidy of the young queen, in instigating the murder of
the deposed sovereign, and then attempting to turn the guilt on her
accomplice. I fear Dryden here forgot his own general rule, that the
tragic hero and heroine should have so much virtue as to entitle their
distress to the tribute of compassion. Altogether, however, the "Spanish
Friar," in both its parts, is an interesting, and almost a fascinating
play; although the tendency, even of the tragic scenes, is not laudable,
and the comedy, though more decent in language, is not less immoral in
tendency than was usual in that loose age.

Dryden attached considerable importance to the art with which the comic
and tragic scenes of the "Spanish Friar" are combined; and in doing so
he has received the sanction of Dr. Johnson. Indeed, as the ardour of
his mind ever led him to prize that task most highly, on which he had
most lately employed his energy, he has affirmed, in the dedication to
the "Spanish Friar," that there was an absolute necessity for combining
two actions in tragedy, for the sake of variety. "The truth is," he
adds, "the audience are grown weary of continued melancholy scenes; and
I dare venture to prophesy, that few tragedies, except those in verse,
shall succeed in this age, if they are not lightened with a course of
mirth; for the feast is too dull and solemn without the fiddles." The
necessity of the relief alluded to may be admitted, without allowing
that we must substitute either the misplaced charms of versification, or
a secondary comic plot, to relieve the solemn weight and monotony of
tragedy. It is no doubt true, that a highly-buskined tragedy, in which
all the personages maintain the funereal pomp usually required from the
victims of Melpomene, is apt to be intolerably tiresome, after all the
pains which a skilful and elegant poet can bestow upon finishing it. But
it is chiefly tiresome, because it is unnatural; and, in respect of
propriety, ought no more to be relieved by the introduction of a set of
comic scenes, independent of those of a mournful complexion, than the
_sombre_ air of a funeral should be enlivened by a concert of fiddles.
There appear to be two legitimate modes of interweaving tragedy with
something like comedy. The first and most easy, which has often been
resorted to, is to make the lower or less marked characters of the
drama, like the porter in "Macbeth," or the fool in "King Lear," speak
the language appropriated to their station, even in the midst of the
distresses of the piece; nay, they may be permitted to have some slight
under-intrigue of their own. This, however, requires the exertion of
much taste and discrimination; for if we are once seriously and deeply
interested in the distress of the play, the intervention of anything
like buffoonery may unloosen the hold which the author has gained on the
feelings of the audience. If such subordinate comic characters are of a
rank to intermix in the tragic dialogue, their mirth ought to be
chastened, till their language bears a relation to that of the higher
persons. For example, nothing can be more absurd than in "Don
Sebastian," and some of Southerne's tragedies, to hear the comic
character answer in prose, and with a would-be witticism, to the solemn,
unrelaxed blank verse of his tragic companion.[35] Mercutio is, I think,
one of the best instances of such a comic person as may be reasonably
and with propriety admitted into tragedy: from which, however, I do not
exclude those lower characters, whose conversation appears absurd if
much elevated above their rank. There is, however, another mode, yet
more difficult to be used with address, but much more fortunate in
effect when it has been successfully employed. This is, when the
principal personages themselves do not always remain in the buckram of
tragedy, but reserve, as in common life, lofty expressions for great
occasions, and at other times evince themselves capable of feeling the
lighter, as well as the more violent or more deep, affections of the
mind. The shades of comic humour in Hamlet, in Hotspur, and in
Falconbridge, are so far from injuring, that they greatly aid the effect
of the tragic scenes, in which these same persons take a deep and
tragical share. We grieve with them, when grieved, still more because we
have rejoiced with them when they rejoiced; and, on the whole, we
acknowledge a deeper _frater feeling_, as Burns has termed it, in men
who are actuated by the usual changes of human temperament, than in
those who, contrary to the nature of humanity, are eternally actuated by
an unvaried strain of tragic feeling. But whether the poet diversifies
his melancholy scenes by the passing gaiety of subordinate characters;
or whether he qualifies the tragic state of his heroes by occasionally
assigning lighter tasks to them; or whether he chooses to employ both
modes of relieving the weight of misery through live long acts; it is
obviously unnecessary that he should distract the attention of his
audience, and destroy the regularity of his play, by introducing a comic
plot with personages and interest altogether distinct, and intrigue but
slightly connected with that of the tragedy. Dryden himself afterwards
acknowledged that though he was fond of the "Spanish Friar," he could
not defend it from the imputation of Gothic and unnatural irregularity;
"for mirth and gravity destroy each other, and are no more to be allowed
for decent, than a gay widow laughing in a mourning habit."[36]

The "Spanish Friar" was brought out in 1681-2, when the nation was in a
ferment against the Catholics on account of the supposed plot. It is
dedicated to John, Lord Haughton, as _protestant play_ inscribed to a
_protestant patron_. It was also the last dramatic work, excepting the
political play of the "Duke of Guise," and the masque of "Albion and
Albanius," brought out by our author before the Revolution. And in
political tendency, the "Spanish Friar" has so different colouring from
these last pieces, that it is worth while to pause to examine the
private relations of the author when he composed it.

Previous to 1678, Lord Mulgrave, our author's constant and probably
effectual patron, had given him an opportunity of discoursing over his
plan of an epic poem to the king and Duke of York; and in the preface to
"Aureng-Zebe" in that year, the poet intimates an indirect complaint
that the royal brothers had neglected his plan.[37] About two years
afterwards, Mulgrave seems himself to have fallen into disgrace, and was
considered as in opposition to the court.[38] Dryden was deprived of his
intercession, and seems in some degree to have shared his disgrace. The
"Essay on Satire" became public in November 1679, and being generally
imputed to Dryden, it is said distinctly by one libeller, that his
pension was for a time interrupted.[39] This does not seem likely; it is
more probable, that Dryden shared the general fate of the household of
Charles II., whose appointments were but irregularly paid; but perhaps
his supposed delinquency made it more difficult for him than others to
obtain redress. At this period broke out the pretended discovery of the
Popish Plot, in which Dryden, even in "Absalom and Achitophel," evinces
a partial belief.[40] Not encouraged, if not actually discountenanced,
at court; sharing in some degree the discontent of his patron Mulgrave;
above all, obliged by his situation to please the age in which he lived,
Dryden did not probably hold the reverence of the Duke of York so
sacred, as to prevent his making the ridicule of the Catholic religion
the means of recommending his play to the passions of the audience.
Neither was his situation at court in any danger from his closing on
this occasion with the popular tide. Charles, during the heat of the
Popish plot, was so far from being in a situation to incur odium by
dismissing a laureate for having written a _Protestant play_, that he
was obliged for a time to throw the reins of government into the hands
of those very persons to whom the Papists were most obnoxious. The
inference drawn from Dryden's performance was that he had deserted the
court; and the Duke of York was so much displeased with the tenor of the
play, that it was the only one of which, on acceding to the crown, he
prohibited the representation. The "Spanish Friar" was often objected to
the author by his opponents, after he had embraced the religion there
satirised. Nor was the idea of his apostasy from the court an invention
of his enemies after his conversion, for it prevailed at the
commencement of the party-disputes; and the name of Dryden is, by a
partisan of royalty, ranked with that of his bitter foe Shadwell, as
followers of Shaftesbury in 1680.[41] But whatever cause of coolness or
disgust our author had received from Charles or his brother, was
removed, as usual, so soon as his services became necessary; and thus
the supposed author of a libel on the king became the ablest defender of
the cause of monarchy, and the author of the "Spanish Friar" the
advocate and convert of the Catholic religion.

In his private circumstances Dryden must have been even worse situated
than at the close of the last Section. His contract with the King's
Company was now ended, and long before seems to have produced him little
profit. If Southerne's biographer can be trusted, Dryden never made by a
single play more than one hundred pounds; so that, with all his
fertility, he could not, at his utmost exertion, make more than two
hundred a year by his theatrical labours.[42] At the same time, they so
totally engrossed his leisure, that he produced no other work of
consequence after the "_Annus Mirabilis._"[43] If, therefore, the
payment of his pension was withheld, whether from the resentment of the
court, or the poverty of the exchequer, he might well complain of the
"unsettled state" which doomed him to continue these irksome and
ill-paid labours.


[1] Malone, vol. i. p. 124.

[2] Dennis's account of these feuds, though not strictly accurate is
lively, and too curious to be suppressed. "Nothing," says Dennis, "is
more certain, than that Mr. Settle, who is now (1717) the city poet, was
formerly a poet of the court. And at what time was he so? Why, in the
reign of King Charles the Second, when that court was more gallant and
more polite than ever the English court perhaps had been before; when
there was at court the present and the late Duke of Buckingham, the late
Earl of Dorset, Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, famous for his wit and
poetry, Sir Charles Sedley, Mr. Saville, Mr. Buckley, and several

"Mr. Settle's first tragedy, 'Cambyses, King of Persia,' was acted for
three weeks together. The second, which was 'The Empress of Morocco,'
was acted for a month together; and was in such high esteem both with
the court and town that it was acted at Whitehall before the king by the
gentlemen and ladies of the court; and the prologue, which was spoken by
the Lady Betty Howard, was writ by the famous Lord Rochester. The
bookseller who printed it, depending upon the prepossession of the town,
ventured to distinguish it from all the plays that had been ever
published before; for it was the first play that ever was sold in
England for two shillings, and the first that ever was printed with
cuts. The booksellers at that time of day had not discovered so much of
the weakness of their gentle readers as they have done since, nor so
plainly discovered that fools, like children, are to be drawn in by
gewgaws.--Well; but what was the event of this great success? Mr. Settle
began to grow insolent, as any one may see, who reads the epistle
dedicatory to 'The Empress of Morocco.' Mr. Dryden, Mr. Shadwell, and
Mr. Crowne, began to grow jealous; and they three in confederacy wrote
'Remarks on the Empress of Morocco.' Mr. Settle answered them; and,
according to the opinion which the town then had of the matter (for I
have utterly forgot the controversy), had by much the better of them
all. In short, Mr. Settle was then a formidable rival to Mr. Dryden; and
I remember very well, that not only the town, but the university of
Cambridge, was very much divided in their opinions about the preference
that ought to be given to them; and in both places the younger fry
inclined to Elkanah."

[3] Lord Mulgrave wrote the prologue when Settle's play was first acted
at court; Lord Rochester's was written for the second occasion; both
were spoken by the beautiful Lady Elizabeth Howard.

[4] See this offensive dedication in the account of Settle's controversy
with Dryden.

[5] A copy of this rare edition (the gift of my learned friend, the Rev.
Henry White of Lichfield) is now before me. The engravings are
sufficiently paltry; and had the play been published even in the present
day, it would have been accounted dear at two shillings. The name of the
publisher is William Cademan, the date 1673. [See H. Morley, "English
Plays," pp. 351, 352.--ED.]

[6] This title is omitted in subsequent editions.

[7] Of whom it was said, that he spoke "to the tune of a good speech."

[8] As, for example, this stage-direction: "Here a company of villains
in ambush from behind the scenes discharge their guns at Muly-Hamet; at
which Muly-Hamet starting and turning, Hametalhaz from under his
priest's habit draws a sword and passes at Muly-H., which pass is
intercepted by Abdeleader. They engage in a very fierce fight with the
villains, who also draw and assist Hametalhaz, and go off several ways
fighting; after the discharge of other guns heard from within, and the
clashing of swords, enter again Muly-Hamet, driving in some of the
former villains, which he kills."

[9] In the fifth act the scene draws and discovers Crimalhaz cast down
on the _guanches_, i.e. hung on a wall set with spikes, scythe-blades,
and hooks of iron; which scene (to judge from the engraving) exhibited
the mangled limbs and wasted bones of former sufferers, suspended in
agreeable confusion. With this pleasing display the piece concluded.

[10] Settle's pamphlet was contumaciously entitled, "Notes and
Observations on the Empress of Morocco revised, with some few erratas;
to be printed instead of the Postscript with the next Edition of the
Conquest of Granada, 1674." See some quotations from this piece, vol.

[11] His comedy of "Sir Courtly Nice" exhibits marks of comic power.
[The condemnation of his other work is a little too sweeping.--ED.]

[12] See vol. x.

[13] [As is the case with many other circumstances of the life of
Dryden, this business of _Calisto_ has been much exaggerated. The amount
of positive evidence of Rochester's interference is exceedingly small,
and of his ill offices in regard to the epilogue there is no proof

[14] So called, according to the communicative old correspondent of the
Gentleman's Magazine in 1745, from the unalterable stiffness of his long

[15] "I am well satisfied I had the greatest party of men of wit and
sense on my side: amongst which I can never enough acknowledge the
unspeakable obligations I received from the Earl of R., who, far above
what I am ever able to deserve from him, seemed almost to make it his
business to establish it in the good opinion of the king and his royal
highness; from both of which I have since received confirmations of
their good-liking of it, and encouragement to proceed. And it is to him,
I must, in all gratitude, confess, I owe the greatest part of my good
success in this and on whose indulgency I extremely build my hopes of a
next." Accordingly, next year, Otway's play of "Titus and Berenice" is
inscribed to Rochester, "his good and generous patron."

  "Tom Otway came next, Tom Shailwell's dear zany,
  And swears for heroics he writes best of any;
  'Don Carlos' his pockets so amply had filled,
  That his mange was quite cured, and his lice were all killed.
  But Apollo had seen his face on the stage,
  And prudently did not think fit to engage
  The scum of a playhouse for the prop of an age."

[17] "Though a certain writer, that shall be nameless (but you may guess
at him by what follows), being ask'd his opinion of this play, very
gravely cock't, and cry'd, _I'gad_ he knew not a line in it he would be
authour of. But he is a fine facetious witty person, as my friend Sir
Formal has it; and to be even with him, I know a comedy of his, that has
not so much as a quibble in it which I would be authour of. And so,
reader, I bid him and thee farewell." The use of Dryden's interjection,
well known through Bayes's employing it, ascertains him to be the poet

  "Well, sir, 'tis granted; I said Dryden's rhymes
  Were stolen, unequal, nay dull many times;
  What foolish patron is there found of his,
  So blindly partial to deny me this?
  But that his plays, embroidered up and down
  With learning, justly pleased the town,
  In the same paper I as freely own.
  Yet, having this allowed, the heavy mass,
  That stuffs up his loose volumes, must not pass;
  For by that rule I might as well admit
  Crowne's tedious scenes for poetry and wit.
  'Tis therefore not enough when your false sense
  Hits the false judgment of an audience
  Of clapping fools assembling, a vast crowd,
  Till the thronged playhouse cracked with the dull load;
  Though even that talent merits, in some sort,
  That can divert the rabble and the court;
  Which blundering Settle never could obtain,
  And puzzling Otway labours at in vain."

He afterwards mentions Etherege's seductive poetry, and adds:

  "Dryden in vain tried this nice way of wit;
  For he, to be a tearing blade, thought fit
  To give the ladies a dry bawdy bob;
  And thus he got the name of _Poet Squab_.
  But to be just, 'twill to his praise be found,
  His excellencies more than faults abound;
  Nor dare I from his sacred temples tear
  The laurel, which he best deserves to wear.
  But does not Dryden find even Jonson dull?
  Beaumont and Fletcher uncorrect, and full
  Of lewd lines, as he calls them? Shakespeare's style
  Stiff and affected? To his own the while
  Allowing all the justice that his pride
  So arrogantly had to these denied?
  And may not I have leave impartially
  To search and censure Dryden's works, and try
  If those gross faults his choice pen doth commit,
  Proceed from want of judgment, or of wit?
  Or if his lumpish fancy does refuse
  Spirit and grace, to his loose slattern muse?
  Five hundred verses every morning writ,
  Prove him no more a poet than a wit."

  "Rochester I despise for's mere want of wit,
  Though thought to have a tail and cloven feet;
  For while he mischief means to all mankind,
  Himself alone the ill effects does find;
  And so, like witches, justly suffers shame,
  Whose harmless malice is so much the same.
  False are his words, affected is his wit,
  So often does he aim, so seldom hit.
  To every face he cringes while he speaks,
  But when the back is turned, the head he breaks.
  Mean in each action, lewd in every limb,
  Manners themselves are mischievous in him;
  A proof that chance alone makes every creature,--
  A very Killigrew, without good-nature.
  For what a [Transcriber's note: "Bessus?" Print unclear] has he always
  And his own kickings notably contrived;
  For (there's the folly that's still mixed with fear)
  Cowards more blows than any hero bear.
  Of fighting sparks Fame may her pleasure say,
  But 'tis a bolder thing to run away.
  The world may well forgive him all his ill,
  For every fault does prove his penance still.
  Falsely he lulls into some dangerous noose,
  And then as meanly labours to get loose.
  A life so infamous is better quitting;
  Spent in base injury and low submitting.--
  I'd like to have left out his poetry,
  Forgot by all almost as well as me.
  Sometimes he has some humour, never wit,
  And if it rarely, very rarely hit,
  'Tis under such a nasty rubbish laid,
  To find it out's the cinder-woman's trade;
  Who for the wretched remnants of a fire,
  Must toil all day in ashes and in mire.
  So lewdly dull his idle works appear,
  The wretched text deserves no comments here;
  Where one poor thought sometime's left all alone,
  For a whole page of dulness to atone:
  'Mongst forty bad, one tolerable line,
  Without expression, fancy, or design."

[20] "Whereas John Dryden, Esq., was on Monday the 18th instant, at
night, barbarously assaulted, and wounded in Rose-street, in
Covent-garden, by divers men unknown; if any person shall make
discovery of the said offenders to the said Mr. Dryden, or to any
justice of the peace, he shall not only receive fifty pounds, which is
deposited in the hands of Mr. Blanchard, goldsmith, next door to
Temple-bar, for the said purpose; but if he be a principal, or an
accessory, in the said fact, his Majesty is graciously pleased to
promise him his pardon for the same."--_London Gazette_, from December
18th to December 22d, 1679. Mr. Malone mentions the same advertisement
in a newspaper, entitled, "Domestic Intelligence or News from City and

[21] I might also mention the sentiment of Count Conigsmarck, who
allowed, that the barbarous assassination of Mr. Thynne by his bravoes
was a slain on his blood, but such a one as a good action in the wars,
or a lodging on a counterscarp, would easily wash out. See his Trial,
"State Trials," vol. iv. But Conigsmarck was a foreigner.

[22] For example, a rare broadside in ridicule of Benjamin Harris the
Whig publisher, entitled, "The Saint turned Courtezan, or a new Plot
discovered by a precious Zealot of an Assault and Battery designed upon
the Body of a sanctified Sister,

  "Who, in her husband's absence, with a brother
  Did often use to comfort one another,
  Till wide-mouthed Crop, who is an old Italian,
  Took his mare nappy, and surprised her stallion,
  Who, steal of entertainment from his mistress,
  Did meet a cudgelling not matched in histories."

    "Who's there?" quoth watchful Argus.
      "Tis I, in longing passion,
    Give me a kiss."
    Quoth Ben, "Take this,
      _A Dryden salutation_."

      "Help Care, Vile, Smith, and Curtes,
      Each zealous covenanter!
      What wonder the atheist
      L'Estrange should turn papist,
      When a zealot turns a ranter."

[23] Vol. xiii.

[24] Cibber's Apology, 4to, p. 74.

[25] Vol. xv.

[26] Vol. v.

[27] Vol. v.

[28] This distinction our author himself points out in the Prologue. The
poet there says,

  "His hero, whom you wits his bully call,
  Bates of his mettle, and scarce rants at all;
  He's somewhat lewd, but a well-meaning mind,
  Weeps much, fights little, but is wondrous kind."--Vol. v.

[29] See Footnote 26, Section II, this volume.

[30] Mr. Malone has seen a MS. copy of "Limberham" in its original
state, found by Bolingbroke in the sweepings of Pope's study. It
contained several exceptionable passages, afterwards erased or altered.

[31] Vol. vi.

[32] By allusion to the act for burying in woollen.

[33] [Transcriber's note: "See their Petition, page 88" in original.
This is to be found in Footnote 26, Section II.]

[34] Vol. vi.

[35] This is ridiculed in "Chrononhotonthologos."

[36] Parallel of Poetry and Painting, vol. xvii.

[37] [Transcriber's note: "See page 181" in original. This approximates
to paragraphs preceding reference [26] in text, Section IV.]

[38] He is said to have cast the eyes of ambitious affection on the Lady
Anne (afterwards queen), daughter of the Duke of York; at which
presumption Charles was so much offended, that when Mulgrave went to
relieve Tangier in 1680, he is said to have been appointed to a leaky
and frail vessel, in hopes that he might perish; an injury which he
resented so highly, as not to permit the king's health to be drunk at
his table till the voyage was over. On his return from Tangier he was
refused the regiment of the Earl of Plymouth; and, considering his
services as neglected, for a time joined those who were discontented
with the government. He was probably reclaimed by receiving the
government of Hull and lieutenancy of Yorkshire. See vol. ix.

[39] In a poem called "The Laureat," the satirist is so ill informed, as
still to make Dryden the author of the "Essay on Satire." Surely it is
unlikely to suppose, that he should have submitted to the loss of a
pension, which he so much needed, rather than justify himself, where
justification was so easy. Yet his resentment is said to have been

  "For Pension lost, and justly, without doubt:
  When servants snarl we ought to kick them out.
         *       *       *       *       *
  That lost, the visor changed, you turn about,
  And straight a true-blue Protestant crept out.
  The _Friar_ now was wrote; and some will say,
  They smell a malcontent through all the play."

See the whole passage, vol. vi.

[40] See, for this point also, the volume last quoted.

[41] In "A Modest Vindication of Antony, Earl of Shaftesbury, in a
Letter to a Friend concerning his having been elected King of Poland,"
Dryden is named poet-laureate to the supposed king-elect, and Shadwell
his deputy. See vol. ix.

[42] "Dryden being very desirous of knowing how much Southerne had made
by the profits of one of his plays, the other, conscious of the little
success Dryden had met with in theatrical compositions, declined the
question, and answered, he was really ashamed to acquaint him. Dryden
continuing to be solicitous to be informed, Southerne owned he had
cleared by his last play £700; which appeared astonishing to Dryden, who
was perhaps ashamed to confess, that he had never been able to acquire,
by any of his most successful pieces, more than £100."--_Life of
Southerne_ prefixed to his Plays.

[43] There was published, 1679, a translation of Appian, printed for
John Amery at the Peacock, against St. Dunstan's Church, Fleet-street.
It is inscribed by the translator, J.D., to the Earl of Ossory; and
seems to have been undertaken by his command. This work is usually
termed in catalogues, Dryden's Appian. I presume it may be the work of
that Jonathan Dryden who is mentioned in p 26.


_Dryden engages in Politics--Absalom and Achitophel, Part First--The
Medal--MacFlecknoe--Absalom and Achitophel, Part Second--The Duke of

The controversies, in which Dryden had hitherto been engaged, were of a
private complexion, arising out of literary disputes and rivalry. But
the country was now deeply agitated by political faction; and so
powerful an auxiliary was not permitted by his party to remain in a
state of inactivity. The religion of the Duke of York rendered him
obnoxious to a large proportion of the people, still agitated by the
terrors of the Popish Plot. The Duke of Monmouth, handsome, young,
brave, and courteous, had all the external requisites for a popular
idol; and what he wanted in mental qualities was amply supplied by the
Machiavel subtlety of Shaftesbury. The life of Charles was the only
isthmus between these contending tides, "which, mounting, viewed each
other from afar, and strove in vain to meet." It was already obvious,
that the king's death was to be the signal of civil war. His situation
was doubly embarrassing, because, in all probability, Monmouth, whose
claims were both unjust in themselves and highly derogatory to the
authority of the crown, was personally amiable, and more beloved by
Charles than was his inflexible and bigoted brother. But to consent to
the bill for excluding the lawful heir from the crown, would have been
at the same time putting himself in a state of pupillage for the rest of
his reign, and evincing to his subjects, that they had nothing to expect
from attachment to his person, or defence of his interest. This was a
sacrifice not to be thought of so long as the dreadful recollection of
the wars in the preceding reign determined a large party to support the
monarch, while he continued willing to accept of their assistance.
Charles accordingly adopted a determined course; and, to the rage rather
than confusion of his partisans, Monmouth was banished to Holland, from
whence he boldly returned without the king's licence, and openly assumed
the character of the leader of a party. Estranged from court, he made
various progresses through the country, and employed every art which the
genius of Shaftesbury could suggest, to stimulate the courage, and to
increase the number, of his partisans. The press, that awful power, so
often and so rashly misused, was not left idle. Numbers of the
booksellers were distinguished as Protestant or fanatical publishers;
and their shops teemed with the furious declamations of Ferguson, the
inflammatory sermons of Hickeringill, the political disquisitions of
Hunt, and the party plays and libellous poems of Settle and Shadwell. An
host of rhymers, inferior even to those last named, attacked the king,
the Duke of York, and the ministry, in songs and libels, which, however
paltry, were read, sung, rehearsed, and applauded. It was time that some
champion should appear in behalf of the crown, before the public should
have been irrecoverably alienated by the incessant and slanderous
clamour of its opponents. Dryden's place, talents, and mode of thinking,
qualified him for this task. He was the poet-laureate and household
servant of the king thus tumultuously assailed. His vein of satire was
keen, terse, and powerful, beyond any that has since been displayed.
From the time of the Restoration, he had been a favourer of monarchy,
perhaps more so, because the opinion divided him from his own family. If
he had been for a time neglected, the smiles of a sovereign soon make
his coldness forgotten; and if his narrow fortune was not increased, or
even rendered stable, he had promises of provision, which inclined him
to look to the future with hope, and endure the present with patience.
If he had shared in the discontent which for a time severed Mulgrave
from the royal party, that cause ceased to operate when his patron was
reconciled to the court, and received a share of the spoils of the
disgraced Monmouth.[1] If there wanted further impulse to induce Dryden,
conscious of his strength, to mingle in an affray where it might be
displayed to advantage, he had the stimulus of personal attachment and
personal enmity, to sharpen his political animosity. Ormond, Halifax,
and Hyde, Earl of Rochester, among the nobles, were his patrons; Lee and
Southerne, among the poets, were his friends. These were partisans of
royalty. The Duke of York, whom the "Spanish Friar" probably had
offended, was conciliated by a prologue on his visiting the theatre at
his return from Scotland,[2] and it is said, by the omission of certain
peculiarly offensive passages, so soon as the play was reprinted.[3] The
opposite ranks contained Buckingham, author of the "Rehearsal;"
Shadwell, with whom our poet now urged open war; and Settle, the
insolence of whose rivalry was neither forgotten nor duly avenged. The
respect due to Monmouth was probably the only consideration to be
overcome: but his character was to be handled with peculiar lenity; and
his duchess, who, rather than himself, had patronised Dryden, was so
dissatisfied with the politics, as well as the other irregularities, of
her husband, that there was no danger of her taking a gentle correction
of his ambition as any affront to herself. Thus stimulated by every
motive, and withheld by none, Dryden composed, and on the 17th November
1681 published, the satire of "Absalom and Achitophel."

The plan of the satire was not new to the public. A Catholic poet had,
in 1679, paraphrased the scriptural story of Naboth's vine-yard and
applied it to the condemnation of Lord Stafford, on account of the
Popish Plot.[4] This poem is written in the style of a scriptural
allusion; the names and situations of personages in the holy text being
applied to those contemporaries, to whom the author assigned a place in
his piece. Neither was the obvious application of the story of Absalom
and Achitophel to the persons of Monmouth and Shaftesbury first made by
our poet. A prose paraphrase, published in 1080, had already been
composed upon this allusion.[5] But the vigour of the satire, the happy
adaptation, not only of the incidents, but of the very names to the
individuals characterised, gave Dryden's poem the full effect of
novelty. It appeared a very short time after Shaftesbury had been
committed to the Tower, and only a few days before the grand jury were
to take under consideration the bill preferred against him for high
treason. Its sale was rapid beyond example; and even those who were most
severely characterised, were compelled to acknowledge the beauty, if not
the justice, of the satire. The character of Monmouth, an easy and
gentle temper, inflamed beyond its usual pitch by ambition, and seduced
by the arts of a wily and interested associate, is touched with
exquisite delicacy. The poet is as careful of the offending Absalom's
fame, as the father in Scripture of the life of his rebel son. The
fairer side of his character is industriously presented, and a veil
drawn over all that was worthy of blame. But Shaftesbury pays the lenity
with which Monmouth is dismissed. The traits of praise, and the tribute
paid to that statesman's talents, are so qualified and artfully blended
with censure, that they seem to render his faults even more conspicuous,
and more hateful. In this skilful mixture of applause and blame lies the
nicest art of satire. There must be an appearance of candour on the part
of the poet, and just so much merit allowed, even to the object of his
censure, as to make his picture natural. It is a child alone who fears
the aggravated terrors of a Saracen's head; the painter, who would move
the awe of an enlightened spectator, must delineate his tyrant with
human features. It seems likely, that Dryden considered the portrait of
Shaftesbury, in the first edition of "Absalom and Achitophel," as
somewhat deficient in this respect; at least the second edition contains
twelve additional lines, the principal tendency of which is to praise
the ability and integrity with which Shaftesbury had discharged the
office of lord high chancellor. It has been reported, that this
mitigation was intended to repay a singular exertion of generosity on
Shaftesbury's part, who, while smarting under the lash of Dryden's
satire, and in the short interval between the first and second edition
of the poem, had the liberality to procure admission for the poet's son
upon the foundation of the Charterhouse, of which he was then governor.
But Mr. Malone has fully confuted this tale, and shown, from the records
of the seminary, that Dryden's son Erasmus was admitted upon the
recommendation of the king himself.[6] The insertion, therefore, of the
lines in commemoration of Shaftesbury's judicial character, was a
voluntary effusion on the part of Dryden, and a tribute which he seems
to have judged it proper to pay to the merit even of an enemy. Others of
the party of Monmouth, or rather of the opposition party (for it
consisted, as is commonly the case, of a variety of factions, agreeing
in the single principle of opposition to the government), were
stigmatised with severity, only inferior to that applied to Achitophel.
Among these we distinguish the famous Duke of Buckingham, with whom,
under the character of Zimri, our author balanced accounts for his share
in the "Rehearsal;" Bethel, the Whig sheriff, whose scandalous avarice
was only equalled by his factious turbulence; and Titus Oates, the
pretended discoverer of the Popish Plot. The account of the Tory chiefs,
who retained, in the language of the poem, their friendship for David at
the expense of the popular hatred, included, of course, most of Dryden's
personal protectors. The aged Duke of Ormond is panegyrised with a
beautiful apostrophe to the memory of his son, the gallant Earl of
Ossory. The Bishops of London and Rochester; Mulgrave our author's
constant patron, now reconciled with Charles and his government; the
plausible and trimming Halifax; and Hyde, Earl of Rochester, second son
to the great Clarendon, appear in this list. The poet having thus
arrayed and mustered the forces on each side, some account of the combat
is naturally expected; and Johnson complains, that, after all the
interest excited, the story is but lamely winded up by a speech from the
throne, which produces the instantaneous and even marvellous effect, of
reconciling all parties, and subduing the whole phalanx of opposition.
Even thus, says the critic, the walls, towers, and battlements of an
enchanted castle disappear, when the destined knight winds his horn
before it. Spence records in his Anecdotes, that Charles himself imposed
on Dryden the task of paraphrasing the speech to his Oxford parliament,
at least the most striking passages, as a conclusion to his poem of
"Absalom and Achitophel."

But let us consider whether the nature of the poem admitted of a
different management in the close. Incident was not to be attempted; for
the poet had described living characters and existing factions, the
issue of whose contention was yet in the womb of fate, and could not
safely be anticipated in the satire. Besides, the dissolution of the
Oxford parliament with that memorable speech, was a remarkable era in
the contention of the factions, after which the Whigs gradually
declined, both in spirit, in power, and in popularity. Their boldest
leaders were for a time appalled;[7] and when they resumed their
measures, they gradually approached rather revolution than reform, and
thus alienated the more temperate of their own party, till at length
their schemes terminated in the Rye-house Conspiracy. The speech having
such an effect, was therefore not improperly adopted as a termination to
the poem of "Absalom and Achitophel."

The success of this wonderful satire was so great, that the court had
again recourse to the assistance of its author. Shaftesbury was now
liberated from the Tower; for the grand jury, partly influenced by
deficiency of proof, and partly by the principles of the Whig party, out
of which the sheriffs had carefully selected them, refused to find the
bill of high treason against him. This was a subject of unbounded
triumph to his adherents, who celebrated his acquittal by the most
public marks of rejoicing. Amongst others, a medal was struck, bearing
the head and name of Shaftesbury, and on the reverse, a sun, obscured
with a cloud, rising over the Tower and city of London, with the date of
the refusal of the bill (24th November 1681), and the motto LAETAMUR.
These medals, which his partisans wore ostentatiously at their bosoms,
excited the general indignation of the Tories; and the king himself is
said to have suggested it as a theme for the satirical muse of Dryden,
and to have rewarded his performance with an hundred broad pieces. To a
poet of less fertility, the royal command, to write again upon a
character which, in a former satire, he had drawn with so much precision
and felicity, might have been as embarrassing at least as honourable.
But Dryden was inexhaustible; and easily discovered, that, though he had
given the outline of Shaftesbury in "Absalom and Achitophel," the
finished colouring might merit another canvas. About the sixteenth of
March 1681, he published, anonymously "The Medal, a Satire against
Sedition," with the apt motto,

  "_Per Graium populos, mediaeque per Elidis urbem
  Ibat ovans; Divumque sibi poscebat honores._"

In this satire, Shaftesbury's history; his frequent political
apostasies; his licentious course of life, so contrary to the stern
rigour of the fanatics, with whom he had associated; his arts in
instigating the fury of the anti-monarchists; in fine, all the political
and moral bearings of his character sounded and exposed to contempt and
reprobation, the beauty of the poetry adding grace to the severity of
the satire. What impression these vigorous and well-aimed darts made
upon Shaftesbury, who was so capable of estimating their sharpness and
force, we have no means to ascertain; but long afterwards, his grandson,
the author of the "Characteristics," speaks of Dryden and his works with
a bitter affectation of contempt, offensive to every reader of judgment,
and obviously formed on prejudice against the man, rather than dislike
to the poetry.[8] It is said, that he felt more resentment on account of
the character of imbecility adjudged to his father in "Absalom and
Achitophel," than for all the pungent satire, there and in the "Medal,"
bestowed upon his grandfather; an additional proof, how much more easy
it is to bear those reflections which render ourselves or our friends
hateful, than those by which they are only made ridiculous and
contemptible. The Whig poets, for many assumed that title, did not
behold these attacks upon their leader and party with patience or
forbearance; but they rushed to the combat with more zeal, or rather
fury, than talent or policy. Their efforts are numbered and described
elsewhere;[9] so that we need here only slightly notice those which
Dryden thought worthy of his own animadversion. Most of them adopted the
clumsy and obvious expedient of writing their answers in the style of
the successful satire which had provoked them. Thus, in reply to
"Absalom and Achitophel," Pordage and Settle imitated the plan of
bestowing scriptural names on their poem and characters the former
entitling his piece "Azaria and Hushai," the latter, "Absalom Senior, or
Absalom and Achitophel transposed." But these attempts to hurl back the
satire at him by whom it was first launched, succeeded but
indifferently, and might have convinced the authors that the charm of
"Absalom and Achitophel" lay not in the plan, but in the power of
execution. It was easy to give Jewish titles to their heroes, but the
difficulty lay in drawing their characters with the force and precision
of their prototype. Buckingham himself was rash enough to engage in this
conflict; but, whether his anger blunted his wit, or that his share in
the "Rehearsal" was less even than what is generally supposed, he loses,
by his "Reflections on Absalom and Achitophel," the credit we are
disposed to allow him for talent on the score of that lively piece.[10]
A nonconformist clergyman published two pieces, which I have never seen,
one entitled, "A Whip for the Fool's Back, who styles honourable
Marriage a cursed confinement, in his profane Poem of Absalom and
Achitophel;" the other, "A Key, with the Whip, to open the Mystery and
Iniquity of the Poem called Absalom and Achitophel." Little was to be
hoped or feared from poems bearing such absurd titles: I throw, however,
into the note, the specimen which Mr. Malone has given of their
contents.[11] The reverend gentleman having announced, that Achitophel,
in Hebrew, means "the brother of a fool," Dryden retorted, with infinite
coolness, that in that case the author of the discovery might pass with
his readers for next akin, and that it was probably the relation which
made the kindness.

"The Medal" was answered by the same authors who replied to "Absalom and
Achitophel," as if the Whigs had taken in sober earnest the advice which
Dryden bestowed on them in the preface to that satire. And moreover (as
he there expressly recommends) they railed at him abundantly, without a
glimmering of wit to enliven their scurrility. Hickeringill, a crazy
fanatic, began the attack with a sort of mad poem, called "The
Mushroom." It was written and sent to press the very day on which "The
Medal" appeared; a circumstance on which the author valued himself so
highly, as to ascribe it to divine inspiration.[12] With more labour,
and equal issue, Samuel Pordage, a minor poet of the day, produced "The
Medal Reversed;" for which, and his former aggression, Dryden brands
him, in a single line of the Second Part of "Absalom and Achitophel," as

  "Lame Mephibosheth, the wizard's[13] son."

There also appeared "The Loyal Medal Vindicated," and a piece entitled
"Dryden's Satire to his Muse," imputed to Lord Somers, but which, in
conversation with Pope, he positively disavowed. All these, and many
other pieces, the fruits of incensed and almost frantic party fury, are
marked by the most coarse and virulent abuse. The events in our author's
life were few, and his morals, generally speaking, irreproachable; so
that the topics for the malevolence of his antagonists were both scanty
and strained. But they ceased not, with the true pertinacity of angry
dulness, to repeat, in prose and verse, in couplet, ballad, and
madrigal, the same unvaried accusations, amounting in substance to the
following: That Dryden had been bred a puritan and republican; that he
had written an elegy on Cromwell (which one wily adversary actually
reprinted); that he had been in poverty at the Restoration; that Lady
Elizabeth Dryden's character was tarnished by the circumstances
attending their nuptials; that Dryden had written the "Essay on Satire,"
in which the king was libelled; that he had been beaten by three men in
Rose-alley; finally, that he was a Tory, and a tool of arbitrary power.
This cuckoo song, garnished with the burden of _Bayes_ and _Poet
Squab_,[14] was rung in the ear of the public again and again, and with
an obstinacy which may convince us how little there was to be said, when
that little was so often repeated. Feeble as these attacks were, their
number, like that of the gnats described by Spenser,[15] seems to have
irritated Dryden to exert the power of his satire, and, like the blast
of the northern wind, to sweep away at once these clamorous and busy,
though ineffectual assailants. Two, in particular, claimed distinction
from the nameless crowd; Settle, Dryden's ancient foe, and Shadwell, who
had been originally a dubious friend.

Of Dryden's controversy with Settle we have already spoken fully; but we
may here add, that, in addition to former offences of a public and
private nature, Elkanah, in the Prologue to the "Emperor of Morocco,"
acted in March 1681-2, had treated Dryden with great irreverence.[16]
Shadwell had been for some time in good habits with Dryden; yet an early
difference of taste and practice in comedy, not only existed between
them, but was the subject of reciprocal debate, and something
approaching to rivalry.

Dryden, as we have seen, had avowed his preference of lively dialogue in
comedy to delineation of character, or, in other words, of wit and
repartee to what was then called humour. On this subject Shadwell early
differed from the laureate. Conscious of considerable powers in
observing nature, while he was deficient in that liveliness of fancy
which is necessary to produce vivacity of dialogue, Shadwell affected,
or perhaps entertained, a profound veneration for the memory of Ben
Jonson, and proposed him as his model in the representation of such
characters as were to be marked by _humour_, or an affectation of
singularity of manners, speech, and behaviour. Dryden, on the other
hand, was no great admirer either of Jonson's plays in general, or of
the low and coarse characters of vice and folly, in describing which lay
his chief excellency; and this opinion he had publicly intimated in the
"Essay of Dramatic Poesy." In the preface to the very first of
Shadwell's plays, printed in 1668, he takes occasion bitterly, and with
a direct application to Dryden, to assail the grounds of this criticism
and the comedies of the author who had made it.[17] If this petulance
produced any animosity, it was not lasting; for in the course of their
controversy, Dryden appeals to Shadwell, whether he had not rather
countenanced than impeded his first rise in public favour; and, in 1674,
they made common cause with Crowne to write those Remarks, which were to
demolish Settle's "Empress of Morocco." Even in 1670, while Shadwell
expresses the same dissent from Dryden's opinion concerning the merit of
Jonson's comedy, it is in very respectful terms, and with great
deference to his respected and admired friend, of whom, though he will
not say his is the best way of writing, he maintains his manner of
writing it is most excellent[18]. But the irreconcilable difference in
their taste soon after broke out in less seemly terms; for Shadwell
permitted himself to use some very irreverent expressions towards
Dryden's play of "Aureng-Zebe," in the Prologue and Epilogue to his
comedy of the "Virtuoso;" and in the Preface to the same piece he
plainly intimated, that he wanted nothing but a pension to enable him to
write as well as the poet-laureate.[19] This attack was the more
intolerable, as Dryden, in the Preface to that very play of "Aureng-Zebe,"
probably meant to include Shadwell among those contemporaries
who, even in his own judgment excelled him in comedy. In 1678 Dryden
accommodated with a prologue Shadwell's play of the "True Widow;" but to
write these occasional pieces was part of his profession, and the
circumstance does not prove that the breach between these rivals for
public applause was ever thoroughly healed; on the contrary, it seems
likely, that, in the case of Shadwell, as in that of Settle, political
hatred only gangrened a wound inflicted by literary rivalry. After their
quarrel became desperate, Dryden resumed his prologue, and adapted it to
a play by Afra Behn, called the "Widow Ranter, or Bacon in
Virginia."[20] Whatever was the progress of the dispute, it is certain
that Shadwell, as zealously attached to the Whig faction as Dryden to
the Tories, buckled on his armour among their other poetasters to
encounter the champion of royalty. His answer to "The Medal" is entitled
"The Medal of John Bayes:" it appeared in autumn 1681, and is
distinguished by scurrility, even among the scurrilous lampoons of
Settle, Care, and Pordage. Those, he coolly says, who know Dryden, know
there is not an untrue word spoke of him in the poem; although he is
there charged with the most gross and infamous crimes. Shadwell also
seems to have had a share in a lampoon, entitled "The Tory Poets," in
which both Dryden and Otway were grossly reviled.[21] On both occasions,
his satire was as clumsy as his overgrown person, and as brutally coarse
as his conversation: for Shadwell resembled Ben Jonson in his vulgar and
intemperate pleasures, as well as in his style of comedy and corpulence
of body.[22] Dryden seems to have thought, that such reiterated attacks,
from a contemporary of some eminence, whom he had once called friend,
merited a more severe castigation than could be administered in a
general satire. He therefore composed "Mac-Flecknoe, or a Satire on the
True Blue Protestant Poet, T.S., by the Author of Absalom and
Achitophel," which was published 4th October 1682. Richard Flecknoe,
from whom the piece takes its title, was so distinguished as a wretched
poet, that his name had become almost proverbial. Shadwell is
represented as the adopted son of this venerable monarch, who so long

  "In prose and verse was owned without dispute,
  Through all the realms of Nonsense absolute."

The solemn inauguration of Shadwell as his successor in this drowsy
kingdom, forms the plan of the poem; being the same which Pope
afterwards adopted on a broader canvas for his "Dunciad." The vices and
follies of Shadwell are not concealed, while the awkwardness of his
pretensions to poetical fame are held up to the keenest ridicule. In an
evil hour, leaving the composition of low comedy, in which he held an
honourable station, he adventured upon the composition of operas and
pastorals. On these the satirist falls without mercy; and ridicules, at
the same time, his pretensions to copy Ben Jonson:

  "Nor let false friends seduce thy mind to fame,
  By arrogating Jonson's hostile name;
  Let father Flecknoe fire thy mind with praise,
  And uncle Ogleby thy envy raise.
  Thou art my blood, where Jonson has no part:
  What share have we in nature or in art?
  Where did his wit on learning fix a brand,
  And rail at arts he did not understand?
  Where made he love in Prince Nicander's vein,
  Or swept the dust in Psyche's humble strain?"

This unmerciful satire was sold off in a very short time; and it seems
uncertain whether it was again published until 1084, when it appeared
with the author's name in Tonson's first Miscellany. It would seem that
Dryden did not at first avow it, though, as the title-page assigned it
to the author of "Absalom and Achitophel," we cannot believe Shadwell's
assertion, that he had denied it with oaths and imprecations. Dryden,
however, omits this satire in the [first [23]] printed list of his plays
and poems, along with the Eulogy on Cromwell. But he was so far from
disowning it, that, in his "Essay on Satire," he quotes "Mac-Flecknoe"
as an instance given by himself of the Varronian satire. Poor Shadwell
was extremely disturbed by this attack upon him; the more so, as he
seems hardly to have understood its tendency. He seriously complains,
that he is represented by Dryden as an Irishman, "when he knows that I
never saw Ireland till I was three-and-twenty years old, and was there
but for four months." He had understood Dryden's parable literally; so
true it is, that a knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear.

"Mac-Flecknoe," though so cruelly severe, was not the only notice which
Shadwell received of Dryden's displeasure at his person and politics.
"Absalom and Achitophel," and "The Medal," having been so successful, a
second part to the first poem was resolved on, for the purpose of
sketching the minor characters of the contending factions. Dryden
probably conceiving that he had already done his part, only revised this
additional book, and contributed about two hundred lines. The body of
the poem was written by Nahum Tate, one of those second-rate bards, who,
by dint of pleonasm and expletive can find smooth lines if any one will
supply them with ideas. The Second Part of "Absalom and Achitophel" is,
however, much beyond his usual pitch, and exhibits considerable marks of
a careful revision by Dryden, especially in the satirical passages; for
the eulogy on the Tory chiefs is in the flat and feeble strain of Tate
himself, as is obvious when it is compared with the description of the
Green-Dragon Club, the character of Corah, and other passages exhibiting
marks of Dryden's hand.

But if the Second Part of "Absalom and Achitophel" fell below the first
in its general tone, the celebrated passage inserted by Dryden possessed
even a double portion of the original spirit. The victims whom he
selected out of the partisans of Monmouth and Shaftesbury for his own
particular severity, were Robert Ferguson, afterwards well known by the
name of The Plotter; Forbes; Johnson, author of the parallel between
James, Duke of York, and Julian the Apostate; but, above all, Settle and
Shadwell, whom, under the names of Doeg and Og, he has depicted in the
liveliest colours his poignant satire could afford. They who have
patience to look into the lampoons which these worthies had published
against Dryden, will, in reading his retort, be reminded of the combats
between the giants and knights of romance. His antagonists came on with
infinite zeal and fury, discharged their ill-aimed blows on every side,
and exhausted their strength in violent and ineffectual rage. But the
keen and trenchant blade of Dryden never makes a thrust in vain, and
never strikes but at a vulnerable point. This, we have elsewhere
remarked, is a peculiar attribute of his satire;[24] and it is difficult
for one assailed on a single ludicrous foible to make good his
respectability though possessed of a thousand valuable qualities; as it
was impossible for Achilles, invulnerable everywhere else, to survive
the wound which a dexterous archer had aimed at his heel. With regard to
Settle, there is a contempt in Dryden's satire which approaches almost
to good-humour, and plainly shows how far our poet was now from
entertaining those apprehensions of rivalship, which certainly dictated
his portion of the "Remarks on the Empress of Morocco." Settle had now
found his level, and Dryden no longer regarded him with a mixture of
rage and apprehension, but with more appropriate feelings of utter
contempt. This poor wight had acquired by practice, and perhaps from
nature, more of a poetical ear than most of his contemporaries were
gifted with. His "blundering melody," as Dryden terms it, is far sweeter
to the ear than the flat and ineffectual couplets of Tate; nor are his
verses always destitute of something approaching to poetic fancy and
spirit. He certainly, in his transposition of "Absalom and Achitophel,"
mimicked the harmony of his original with more success than was attained
by Shadwell, Buckingham or Pordage.[25] But in this facility of
versification all his merit began and ended; in our author's phrase,

  "Doeg, though without knowing how or why,
  Made still a blundering kind of melody;
  Spurred boldly on, and dashed though thick and thin,
  Through sense and nonsense, never out nor in;
  Free from all meaning, whether good or bad,
  And, in one word, heroically mad.
  He was too warm on picking-work to dwell,
  But faggoted his notions as they fell,
  And, if they rhymed and rattled, all was well."

Ere we take leave of Settle, it is impossible to omit mentioning his
lamentable conclusion; a tale often told and moralised upon, and in
truth a piece of very tragical mirth. Elkanah, we have seen, was at this
period a zealous Whig; nay, he was so far in the confidence of
Shaftesbury that, under his direction, and with his materials, he had
been intrusted to compose a noted libel against the Duke of York,
entitled, "The Character of a Popish Successor." Having a genius for
mechanics, he was also exalted to be manager of a procession for burning
the Pope; which the Whigs celebrated with great pomp, as one of many
artifices to inflame the minds of the people.[26] To this, and to the
fireworks which attended its solemnisation, Dryden alludes in the lines
to which Elkanah's subsequent disasters gave an air of prophecy:--

  "In fireworks give him leave to vent his spite,
  Those are the only servants he can write;
  The height of his ambition is, we know,
  But to be master of a puppet-show;
  On that one stage his works may yet appear,
  And a month's harvest keeps him all the year."

Notwithstanding the rank he held among the Whig authors,[27] Settle,
perceiving the cause of his patron Shaftesbury was gradually becoming
weaker, fairly abandoned him to his fate, and read a solemn recantation
of his political errors in a narrative published in 1683. The truth
seems to be, that honest Doeg was poet-laureate to the city, and earned
some emolument by composing verses for pageants and other occasions of
civic festivity; so that when the Tory interest resumed its ascendency
among the magistrates, he had probably no alternative but to relinquish
his principles or his post, and Elkanah, like many greater men, held the
former the easier sacrifice. Like all converts, he became outrageous in
his new faith, wrote a libel on Lord Russell a few days after his
execution; indited a panegyric on Judge Jefferies; and, being _tam Marte
quam Mercurio_, actually joined as a trooper the army which King James
encamped upon Hounslow Heath. After the Revolution, he is enumerated,
with our author and Tate, among those poets whose strains had been
stifled by that great event.[28] He continued, however, to be the
city-laureate;[29] but, in despite of that provision, was reduced by
want to write plays, like Ben Jonson's Littlewit, for the profane
_motions_, or puppet-shows, of Smithfield and Bartholomew fairs. Nay,
having proceeded thus far in exhibiting the truth of Dryden's
prediction, he actually mounted the stage in person among these wooden
performers, and combated St. George for England in a green dragon of his
own proper device. Settle was admitted into the Charterhouse in his old
age, and died there in 1723. The lines of Pope on poor Elkanah's fate
are familiar to every poetical reader:--

  "In Lud's old walls though long I ruled, renowned
  Far as loud Bow's stupendous bells resound;
  Though my own aldermen conferred the bays,
  To me committing their eternal praise,
  Their full-fed heroes, their pacific mayors,
  Their annual trophies and their monthly wars;
  Though long my party built on me their hopes,
  For writing pamphlets, and for roasting popes;
  Yet lo! in me what authors have to brag on!
  Reduced at last to hiss in my own dragon.
  Avert it, heaven! that thou, or Cibber, e'er
  Should wag a serpent-tail in Smithfield fair!
  Like the vile straw that's blown about the streets,
  The needy poet sticks to all he meets;
  Coached, carted, trod upon, now loose, now fast,
  And carried off in some dog's tail at last."

As Dryden was probably more apprehensive of Shadwell, who, though a
worse poet than Settle, has excelled even Dryden in the lower walks of
comedy, he has treated him with sterner severity. His person, his
morals, his manners and his politics, all that had escaped or been but
slightly touched upon in "Mac-Flecknoe," are bitterly reviewed in the
character of Og; and there probably never existed another poet, who, at
the distance of a month, which intervened between the publication of the
two poems, could resume an exhausted theme with an energy which gave it
all the charms of novelty. Shadwell did not remain silent beneath the
lash; but his clamorous exclamations only tended to make his castigation
more ludicrous.[30]

The Second Part of "Absalom and Achitophel" was followed by the
"_Religio Laici_," a poem which Dryden published in the same month of
November 1682. Its tendency, although of a political nature, is so
different from that of the satires, that it will be most properly
considered when we can place it in contrast to the "Hind and Panther."
It was addressed to Henry Dickinson, a young gentleman, who had just
published a translation of Simon's "Critical History of the New

As the publication of the two Parts of "Absalom and Achitophel," "The
Medal," and "Mac-Flecknoe," all of a similar tone, and rapidly
succeeding each other, gave to Dryden, hitherto chiefly known as a
dramatist, the formidable character of an inimitable satirist, we may
here pause to consider their effect upon English poetry. The witty
Bishop Hall had first introduced into our literature that species of
poetry; which, though its legitimate use be to check vice and expose
folly, is so often applied by spleen or by faction to destroy domestic
happiness, by assailing private character. Hall possessed a good ear for
harmony; and, living in the reign of Elizabeth, might have studied it in
Spenser, Fairfax, and other models. But from system, rather than
ignorance or inability, he chose to be "hard of conceit, and harsh of
style," in order that his poetry might correspond with the sharp, sour,
and crabbed nature of his theme.[31] Donne, his successor, was still
more rugged in his versification, as well as more obscure in his
conceptions and allusions. The satires of Cleveland (as we have indeed
formerly noticed) are, if possible, still harsher and more strained in
expression than those of Donne. Butler can hardly be quoted as an
example of the sort of satire we are treating of. "Hudibras" is a
burlesque tale, in which the measure is intentionally and studiously
rendered as ludicrous as the characters and incidents. Oldham, who
flourished in Dryden's time, and enjoyed his friendship, wrote his
satires in the crabbed tone of Cleveland and Donne. Dryden, in the copy
of verses dedicated to his memory, alludes to this deficiency, and seems
to admit the subject as an apology:--

  "O early ripe! to thy abundant store
  What could advancing age have added more!
  It might (what nature never gives the young)
  Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue.
  But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
  Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line."

Yet the apology which he admitted for Oldham, Dryden disdained to make
use of himself. He did not, as has been said of Horace, wilfully untune
his harp when he commenced satirist. Aware that a wound may be given
more deeply with a burnished than with a rusty blade, he bestowed upon
the versification of his satires the same pains which he had given to
his rhyming plays and serious poems. He did not indeed, for that would
have been pains misapplied, attempt to smooth his verses into the
harmony of those in which he occasionally celebrates female beauty; but
he gave them varied tone, correct rhyme, and masculine energy, all which
had hitherto been strangers to the English satire.

Thus, while Dryden's style resembled that of Juvenal rather than Horace,
he may claim a superiority, for uniform and undeviating dignity, over
the Roman satirist. The age, whose appetite for scandal had been
profusely fed by lampoons and libels, now learned, that there was a more
elevated kind of satire, in which poignancy might be united with
elegance, and energy of thought with harmony of versification. The
example seems to have produced a strong effect. No poet, not even Settle
(for even the worst artist will improve from beholding a masterpiece),
afterwards conceived he had sufficiently accomplished his task by
presenting to the public, thoughts, however witty or caustic he might
deem them, clothed in the hobbling measure of Donne or Cleveland; and
expression and harmony began to be consulted, in satire, as well as
sarcastic humour or powerful illustration.

"Mac-Flecknoe," in some degree, differs from the other satires which
Dryden published at this time. It is not confined to the description of
character, but exhibits an imaginary course of incidents, in which the
principal personage takes a ludicrous share. In this it resembles
"Hudibras;" and both are quoted by Dryden himself as examples of the
Varronian satire. But there was this pointed difference, that Butler's
poem is burlesque, and Dryden's mock-heroic. "Mac-Flecknoe" is, I rather
believe, the first poem in the English language, in which the dignity of
a harmonised and lofty style is employed, not only to excite pleasure in
itself, but to increase, by contrast, the comic effect of the scenes
which it narrates; the subject being ludicrous, while the verse is
noble. The models of satire afforded by Dryden, as they have never been
equalled by any succeeding poet, were in a tone of excellence superior
far to all that had preceded them.

These reflections on the nature of Dryden's satires, have, in some
degree, interrupted our account of his political controversies. Not only
did he pour forth these works, one after another, with a fertility which
seemed to imply delight in his new labour; but, as if the spirit of the
time had taught him speed, he found leisure to oppose the Whigs in the
theatre, where the audience was now nearly as much divided as the
kingdom by the contending factions. Settle had produced the tragedy of
"Pope Joan," Shadwell the comedy of the "Lancashire Witches," to expose
to hatred and ridicule the religion of the successor to the crown. Otway
and D'Urfey, Crowne and Southerne, names unequal in fame, vied in
producing plays against the Whigs, which might counterbalance the effect
of these popular dramas. A licence similar to that of Aristophanes was
introduced on the English stage; and living personages were exhibited
under very slight disguises.[32] In the prologues and epilogues, which
then served as a sort of moral to the plays, the veil, thin as it was,
was completely raised, and the political analogies pointed out to such
of the audience as might otherwise have been too dull to apprehend them.
In this sharp though petty war Dryden bore a considerable share. His
necessities obliged him, among other modes of increasing his income, to
accept of a small pecuniary tribute for furnishing prologues on
remarkable occasions, or for new plays; and his principles determined
their tendency.[33] But this was not all the support which his party
expected, and which he afforded them on the theatre, even while
labouring in their service in a different department.

When Dryden had but just finished his "_Religio Laici_," Lee, who had
assisted in the play of "Oedipus," claimed Dryden's promise to requite
the obligation. It has been already noticed, that Dryden had, in the
year succeeding the Restoration, designed a play on the subject of the
Duke of Guise; and he has informed us he had preserved one or two of the
scenes. These, therefore, were revised, and inserted in the new play, of
which Dryden wrote the first scene, the whole fourth act, and great part
of the fifth. Lee composed the rest of "The Duke Of Guise." The general
parallel between the League in France and the Covenant in England, was
too obvious to escape early notice; but the return of Monmouth to
England against the king's express command, in order to head the
opposition, perhaps the insurrection, of London, presented a still
closer analogy to the entry of the Duke of Guise into Paris, under
similar circumstances, on the famous day of the barricades. Of this
remarkable incident, the united authors of "The Duke of Guise" naturally
availed themselves; though with such precaution, that almost the very
expressions of the scene are taken from the prose of Davila. Yet the
plot, though capable of an application so favourable for the royal
party, contained circumstances of offence to it. If the parallel between
Guise and Monmouth was on the one hand felicitous, as pointing out the
nature of the Duke's designs, the moral was revolting, as seeming to
recommend the assassination of Charles's favourite son. The king also
loved Monmouth to the very last; and was slow and reluctant in
permitting his character to be placed in a criminal or odious point of
view.[34] The play, therefore, though ready for exhibition before
midsummer 1682, remained in the hands of Arlington the lord-chamberlain
for two months without being licensed for representation. But during
that time the scene darkened. The king had so far suppressed his
tenderness for Monmouth, as to authorise his arrest at Stafford; and the
influence of the Duke of York at court became daily more predominant.
Among other evident tokens that no measures were hence-forward to be
kept between the king and Monmouth, the representation of "The Duke of
Guise" was at length authorised.

The two companies of players, after a long and expensive warfare, had
now united their forces; on which occasion Dryden furnished them with a
prologue, full of violent Tory principles. By this united company "The
Duke of Guise" was performed on the 30th December 1682. It was printed
with a dedication to Hyde, Earl of Rochester, subscribed by both
authors, but evidently the work of Dryden. It is written in a tone of
defiance to the Whig authors, who had assailed the dedicators, it
alleges, "like footpads in the dark," though their blows had done little
harm, and the objects of their malice yet lived to vindicate their
loyalty in open day. The play itself has as determined a political
character as the dedication. Besides the general parallel between the
leaguers and the fanatical sectaries, and the more delicate, though not
less striking, connection between the story of Guise and of Monmouth,
there are other collateral allusions in the piece to the history of that
unfortunate nobleman, and to the state of parties. The whole character
of Marmoutiere, high-spirited, loyal, and exerting all her influence to
deter Guise from the prosecution of his dangerous schemes, corresponds
to that of Anne, Duchess of Monmouth.[35] The love too which the king
professes to Marmoutiere, and which excites the jealousy of Guise, may
bear a remote and delicate allusion to that partiality which the Duke of
York is said to have entertained for the wife of his nephew.[36]  The
amiable colours in which Marmoutiere is painted, were due to the Duchess
of Monmouth, Dryden's especial patroness. Another more obvious and more
offensive parallel existed between the popular party in the city, with
the Whig sheriffs at their head, and that of the _Echevins_, or sheriffs
of Paris, violent demagogues and adherents to the League, and who, in
the play, are treated with great contumely by Grillon and the royal
guards. The tumults which had taken place at the election of these
magistrates were warm in the recollection of the city; and the
commitment of the ex-sheriffs, Shute and Pilkington, to the Tower, under
pretext of a riot, was considered as the butt of the poet's satire.
Under these impressions the Whigs made a violent opposition to the
representation of the piece, even when the king gave it his personal
countenance. And although, in despite of them, "The Duke of Guise" so
far succeeded, as "to be frequently acted, and never without a
considerable attendance," we may conclude from these qualified
expressions of the author himself, that the play was never eminently
popular. He, who writes for a party, can only please at most one half of
his audience.

It was not to be expected that, at a time so very critical, a public
representation, including such bold allusions, or rather parallels,
should pass without critical censure. "The Duke of Guise" was attacked
by Dryden's old foe Shadwell, in some verses, entitled, "A Lenten
Prologue refused by the Players;"[37] and more formally, in "Reflections
on the pretended Parallel in the Play called the Duke of Guise." In this
pamphlet Shadwell seems to have been assisted by a gentleman of the
Temple, so zealous for the popular cause, that Dryden says he was
detected disguised in a livery-gown, proffering his vote at the
Common-hall. Thomas Hunt, a barrister,[38] likewise stepped forth on
this occasion; and in his "Defence of the Charter of London," then
challenged by the famous process of _Quo Warranto_, he accuses Dryden of
having prepared the way for that arbitrary step, by the degrading
representation of their magistrates executed in effigy upon the stage.
Dryden thought these pamphlets of consequence enough to deserve an
answer, and published, soon after, "The Vindication of the Duke of
Guise." In perusing the controversy, we may admire two circumstances,
eminently characteristical of the candour with which such controversies
are usually maintained: First, the anxiety with which the critics labour
to fix upon Dryden a disrespectful parallel between Charles II. and
Henry II. [III.] of France, which certainly our author did not propose
to carry farther than their common point of situation; and secondly, the
labour with which he disavows what he unquestionably did intend,--a
parallel between the rebellious conduct of Monmouth and of Guise. The
Vindication is written in a tone of sovereign contempt for the
adversaries, particularly for Shadwell. Speaking of Thomas Hunt, Dryden
says,--"Even this their celebrated writer knows no more of style and
English than the Northern dictator; as if dulness and clumsiness were
fatal to the name of _Tom_. It is true, he is a fool in three languages
more than the poet; for, they say, 'he understands Latin, Greek, and
Hebrew,' from all which, to my certain knowledge, I acquit the other. Og
may write against the king, if he pleases, so long as he drinks for him,
and his writings will never do the government so much harm, as his
drinking does it good; for true subjects will not be much perverted by
his libels; but the wine-duties rise considerably by his claret. He has
often called me an atheist in print; I would believe more charitably of
him, and that he only goes the broad way, because the other is too
narrow for him. He may see, by this, I do not delight to meddle with his
course of life, and his immoralities, though I have a long bead-roll of
them. I have hitherto contented myself with the ridiculous part of him,
which is enough, in all conscience, to employ one man; even without the
story of his late fall at the Old Devil, where he broke no ribs, because
the hardness of the stairs could reach no bones; and, for my part, I do
not wonder how he came to fall, for I have always known him heavy: the
miracle is, how he got up again. I have heard of a sea captain as fat as
he, who, to escape arrests, would lay himself flat upon the ground, and
let the bailiffs carry him to prison, if they could. If a messenger or
two, nay, we may put in three or four, should come, he has friendly
advertisement how to escape them. But to leave him, who is not worth any
further consideration, now I have done laughing at him,--would every man
knew his own talent, and that they, who are only born for drinking,
would let both poetry and prose alone!" This was the last distinct and
prolonged animadversion which our author bestowed upon his corpulent

Soon after this time Dryden wrote a biographical preface to Plutarch's
Lives, of which a new translation, by several hands, was in the press.
The dedication is addressed to the Duke of Ormond, the Barzillai of
"Absalom and Achitophel," whom Charles, after a long train of cold and
determined neglect, had in emergency recalled to his favour and his
councils. The first volume of Plutarch's Lives, with Dryden's Life of
the author, appeared in 1683.

About the same time, the king's express command engaged Dryden in a
work, which may be considered as a sort of illustration of the doctrines
laid down in the "Vindication of the Duke of Guise." It was the
translation of Maimbourg's "History of the League," expressly composed
to draw a parallel between the Huguenots of France and the Leaguers, as
both equal enemies of the monarchy. This comparison was easily
transferred to the sectaries of England, and the association proposed by
Shaftesbury. The work was published with unusual solemnity of title-page
and frontispiece; the former declaring that the translation was made by
his Majesty's command; the latter representing Charles on his throne,
surrounded by emblems expressive of hereditary and indefeasible
right.[39] The dedication to the king contains sentiments which savour
strongly of party violence, and even ferocity. The forgiving disposition
of the king is, according to the dedicator, the encouragement of the
conspirators. Like Antaeus they rise refreshed from a simple overthrow.
"These sons of earth are never to be trusted in their mother element;
they must be hoisted into the air, and strangled." Thus exasperated were
the most gentle tempers in these times of doubt and peril. The rigorous
tone adopted, confirms the opinion of those historians who observe,
that, after the discovery of the Rye-house Plot, Charles was fretted out
of his usual debonair ease, and became more morose and severe than had
been hitherto thought consistent with his disposition.

This translation was to be the last service which Dryden was to render
his good-humoured, selfish, and thoughtless patron. While the laureate
was preparing for the stage the opera of "Albion and Albanius," intended
to solemnise the triumph of Charles over the Whigs, or, as the author
expressed it, the double restoration of his sacred Majesty, the king
died of an apoplexy upon the 6th February 1684-5. His death opened to
many, and to Dryden among others, new hopes, and new prospects, which
were, in his instance, doomed to terminate in disappointment and
disgrace. We may therefore pause, and review the private life of the
poet during the period which has occupied our last Sections.

The vigour and rapidity with which Dryden poured forth his animated
satire, plainly intimates, that his mind was pleased with the exercise
of that formidable power. It was more easy for him, he has himself told
us, to write with severity, than with forbearance; and indeed, where is
the expert swordsman, who does not delight in the flourish of his
weapon? Neither could this self-complacent feeling be much allayed, by
the vague and abusive ribaldry with which his satire was repaid. This
was natural to the controversy, was no more than he expected and was
easily retorted with terrible interest. "As for knave," says he, "and
sycophant and rascal, and impudent, and devil, and old serpent, and a
thousand such good morrows, I take them to be only names of parties; and
could return murderer, and cheat, and whig-napper, and sodomite; and, in
short, the goodly number of the seven deadly sins, with all their
kindred and relations, which are names of parties too; but saints will
be saints in spite of villainy." With such feelings, we may believe
Dryden's rest was little disturbed by the litter of libels against

  "Sons of a day just buoyant on the flood,
  Then numbered with the puppies in the mud."

But he who keenly engages in political controversy must not only
encounter the vulgar abuse, which he may justly contemn, but the altered
eye of friends, whose regard is chilled, or alienated. That Dryden
sustained such misfortune we cannot doubt, when he informs us, that, out
of the large party in opposition, comprehending, doubtless, many men of
talent and eminence, who were formerly familiar with him, he had, during
the course of a whole year, only spoken to four, and to those but
casually and cursorily, and only to express a wish, that the times might
come when the names of Whig and Tory might be abolished, and men live
together as they had done before they were introduced.

Neither did the protecting zeal of his party-friends compensate for the
loss of those whom Dryden had alienated in their service. True it is,
that a host of Tory rhymers came forward with complimentary verses to
the author of "Absalom and Achitophel," and of "The Medal." But of all
payment, that in kind is least gratifying to a poverty-struck bard, and
the courtly patrons of Dryden were in no haste to make him more
substantial requital. A gratuity of an hundred broad pieces is said to
have been paid him by Charles for one of his satires; but no permanent
provision was made for him. He was coolly left to increase his pittance
by writing occasional pieces; and it was probably with this view that he
arranged for publication a miscellaneous collection of poetry, which he
afterwards continued. It was published for Tonson in 1683-4, and
contained several versions of Epistles from Ovid, and translations of
detached pieces of Virgil, Horace, and Theocritus, with some smaller
pieces by Dryden himself, and a variety of poems by other hands. The
Epistles had appeared in 1680, in a version of the original by several
hands, to which Dryden also contributed an introductory discourse on
translation. Contrary to our author's custom, the miscellany appeared
without either preface or dedication.

The miscellany, among other minor poems of Dryden, contained many of his
occasional prologues and epilogues, the composition of which his
necessity had rendered so important a branch of income, that, in the
midst of his splendour of satirical reputation, the poet was obliged to
chaffer about the scanty recompence which he drew from such petty
sources. Such a circumstance attended the commencement of his friendship
with Southerne. That poet then opening his dramatic career with the play
of the "Loyal Brother," came, as was usual, to request a prologue from
Dryden, and to offer him the usual compliment of five guineas. But the
laureate demurred, and insisted upon double the sum, "not out of
disrespect," he added, "to you, young man; but the players have had my
goods too cheap." Hence Southerne, who was peculiarly fortunate in his
dramatic revenue, is designed by Pope as

      "Tom sent down to raise
  The price of prologues and of plays."[40]

It may seem surprising that Dryden should be left to make an object of
such petty gains, when, labouring for the service of government, he had
in little more than twelve months produced both Parts of "Absalom and
Achitophel," "The Medal," "Mac-Flecknoe," "_Religio Laici_" and "The
Duke of Guise." But this was not the worst; for, although his pension as
poet-laureate was apparently all the encouragement which he received
from the crown, so ill-regulated were the finances of Charles, so
expensive his pleasures, and so greedy his favourites, that our author,
shortly after finishing these immortal poems, was compelled to sue for
more regular payment of that very pension, and for a more permanent
provision, in the following affecting Memorial, addressed to Hyde, Earl
of Rochester:--"I would plead," says he, "a little merit, and some
hazards of my life from the common enemies; my refusing advantages
offered by them, and neglecting my beneficial studies, for the king's
service; but I only think I merit not to starve. I never applied myself
to any interest contrary to your lordship's; and, on some occasions,
perhaps not known to you, have not been unserviceable to the memory and
reputation of my lord, your father.[41] After this, my lord, my
conscience assures me, I may write boldly, though I cannot speak to you.
I have three sons, growing to man's estate. I breed them all up to
learning, beyond my fortune; but they are too hopeful to be neglected,
though I want. Be pleased to look on me with an eye of compassion: some
small employment would render my condition easy. The king is not
unsatisfied of me; the duke has often promised me his assistance; and
your lordship is the conduit through which their favours pass. Either in
the customs, or the appeals of the excise, or some other way, means
cannot be wanting, if you please to have the will. _'Tis enough for one
age to have neglected Mr. Cowley, and starved Mr. Butler_; but neither
of them had the happiness to live till your lordship's ministry. In the
meantime, be pleased to give me a gracious and a speedy answer to my
present request of half a year's pension for my necessities. I am going
to write somewhat by his Majesty's command,[42] and cannot stir into the
country for my health and studies till I secure my family from want."

We know that this affecting remonstrance was in part successful; for
long afterwards, he says, in allusion to this period, "Even from a bare
treasury, my success has been contrary to that of Mr. Cowley; and
Gideon's fleece has there been moistened, when all the ground was dry."
But in the admission of this claim to the more regular payment of his
pension, was comprehended all Rochester's title to Dryden's gratitude.
The poet could not obtain the small employment which he so earnestly
solicited; and such was the recompense of the merry monarch and his
counsellors, to one whose productions had strengthened the pillars of
his throne, as well as renovated the literary taste of the nation.[43]

[1] Mulgrave was created lieutenant of Yorkshire and governor of Hull,
when Monmouth was deprived of these and other honours.

[2] See vol. x.

[3] This is objected to Dryden by one of his antagonists: "Nor could
ever Shimei be thought to have cursed David more bitterly, than he
permits his friend to blaspheme the Roman priesthood in his epilogue to
the 'Spanish Friar.' In which play he has himself acted his own part
like a true younger son of Noah, as may be easily seen in the first
edition of that comedy, which would not pass muster a second time
without emendations and corrections."--_The Revolter_, 1687, p. 29.

[4] See vol. ix.

[5] See vol. ix. This piece, entitled "Absalom's Conspiracy or the
Tragedy of Treason," is printed in the same volume.

[6] See vol. ix.

[7] Lord Grey says in his narrative, "After the dissolution of the
Oxford parliament, we were all very peaceably inclined, and nothing
passed amongst us that summer of importance, which I can call to mind: I
think my Lord Shaftesbury was sent to the Tower just before the long
vacation; and the Duke of Monmouth, Mr. Montague, Sir Thomas Armstrong,
and myself, went to Tunbridge immediately after his lordship's
imprisonment, where we laid aside the thoughts of disturbing the peace
of the government for those of diverting ourselves."

[8] He usually distinguishes Dryden by his "Rehearsal" title of Bayes;
and, among many other oblique expressions of malevolence, he has this

"To see the incorrigibleness of our poets in their pedantic manner,
their vanity, defiance of criticism, their rhodomontade, and poetical
bravado, we need only turn to our famous poet-laureat (the very Mr.
Bayes himself), in one of his latest and most valued pieces, writ many
years after the ingenious author of the 'Rehearsal' had drawn his
picture. 'I have been listening (says our poet, in his Preface to 'Don
Sebastian'), what objections had been made against the conduct of the
play, but found them all so trivial, that if I should name them, a true
critic would imagine that I played booty. Some are pleased to say the
writing is dull; but _aedatum habet de se loquatur._ Others, that the
double poison is unnatural; let the common received opinion, and
Ausonius's famous epigram, answer that. Lastly, a more ignorant sort of
creatures than either of the former maintain, that the character of
Dorax is not only unnatural, but inconsistent with itself; let them read
the play, and think again. A longer reply is what those cavillers
deserve not. But I will give them and their fellows to understand, that
the Earl of ---- was pleased to read the tragedy twice over before it
was acted and did me the favour to send me word, that I had written
beyond any of my former plays, and that he was displeased anything
should be cut away. If I have not reason to prefer his single judgment
to a whole faction, let the world be judge; for the opposition is the
same with that of Lucan's hero against an army, _concurrere bellum atque
virum_. I think I may modestly conclude,' etc.

"Thus he goes on, to the very end, in the self-same strain. Who, after
this, can ever say of the 'Rehearsal' author, that his picture of our
poet was overcharged, or the national humour wrong described?"

[9] See vol. ix.

[10] See some extracts from this piece, vol. ix.

  "How well this Hebrew name with sense doth sound,
  _A fool's my brother_,[11a] though in wit profound!
  Most wicked wits are the devil's chiefest tools,
  Which, ever in the issue, God befools.
  Can they compare, vile varlet, once hold true,
  Of the loyal lord, and this disloyal Jew?
  Was e'er our English earl under disgrace,
  And, unconscionable; put out of place?
  Hath he laid lurking in his country-house
  To plot rebellions, as one factious?
  Thy bog-trot bloodhounds hunted have this stag,
  Yet cannot fasten their foul fangs,--they flag.
  Why didst not _thou_ bring in thy evidence
  With them, to rectify the brave jury's sense,
  And so prevent the _ignoramus_?--nay,
  Thou wast cock-sure he wou'd he damned for aye,
  Without thy presence;--thou wast then employed
  To brand him 'gainst he came to be destroyed:
  Forehand preparing for the hangman's axe,
  Had not the witnesses been found so lax."

[11a] _Achi_, my brother, and _tophel_, a fool.--_Orig. Note_.

[12] Vol. ix.

[13] He was the son of Dr. John Pordage, minister of Bradfield expelled
his charge for insufficiency in the year 1646. Among other charges
against him were the following, which, extraordinary as they are, he
does not seem to have denied:

"That he hath very frequent and familiar converse with angels.

"That a great dragon came into his chamber with a tail of eight yards
long, four great teeth, and did spit fire at him; and that he contended
with the dragon.

"That his own angel came and stood by him while he was expostulating
with the dragon; and the angel came in his own shape and fashion, the
same clothes, bands, and cuffs, the same bandstrings; and that his angel
stood by him and upheld him.

"That Mrs. Pordage and Mrs. Flavel had their angels standing by them
also, Mrs. Pordage singing sweetly, and keeping time upon her breast;
and that his children saw the spirits coming into the house, and said,
Look there, father; and that the spirits did after come into the
chamber, and drew the curtains when they were in bed.

"That the said Mr. Pordage confessed, that a strong enchantment was upon
him, and that the devil did appear to him in the shape of Everard, and
in the shape of a fiery dragon; and the whole roof of the house was full
of spirits."--_State Trials_.

[14] How little Dryden valued these nicknames appears from a passage in
the "Vindication of the Duke of Guise:"--"Much less am I concerned at
the noble name of Bayes; that is a brat so like his own father, that he
cannot be mistaken for anybody else. They might as reasonably have
called Tom Sternhold Virgil, and the resemblance would have held as
well." Vol. vii.

    "As when a swarm of gnats at eventide
    Out of the fennes of Allan doe arise,
  Their murmuring small trompetts sownden wide,
    Whiles in the aire their clustring army flies,
    That as a cloud doth seeme to dim the skies;
  No man nor beast may rest or take repast
    For their sharp wounds and noyous injuries,
  Till the fierce northern wind with blustring blast
  Doth blow them quite away, and in the ocean cast."

  "How finely would the sparks be caught to-day,
  Should a Whig poet write a Tory play,
  And you, possessed with rage before, should send
  Your random shot abroad and maul a friend?
  For you, we find, too often hiss and clap,
  Just as you live, speak, think, and fight--by hap.
  And poets, we all know, can change, like you,
  And are alone to their own interest true;
  Can write against all sense, nay even their own:
  The vehicle called _pension_ makes it down.
  _No fear of cudgels_, where there's hope of bread;
  A well-filled paunch forgets a _broken head_."

[17] I quote the passage at length, as evincing the difference between
Dryden's taste in comedy and that of Shadwell:--

"I have endeavoured to represent variety of humours (most of the persons
of the play differing in their characters from one another), which was
the practice of Ben Jonson, whom I think all drammatick poets ought to
imitate, though none are like to come near; he being the onely person
that appears to me to have made perfect representation of human life:
most other authors that I ever read, either have wilde romantick tales,
wherein they strein love and honour to that ridiculous height, that it
becomes burlesque; or in their lower comedies content themselves with
one or two humours at most, and those not near so perfect characters as
the admirable Jonson; always made, who never wrote comedy without seven
or eight considerable humours. I never saw one, except that of
Falstaffe, that was, in my judgment, comparable to any of Jonson's
considerable humours. You will pardon this digression when I tell you,
he is the man, of all the world, I most passionately admire for his
excellency in drammatick poetry.

"Though I have known _some of late so insolent to say_, that Ben Jonson
wrote his best playes without wit, imagining, that all the wit playes
consisted in bringing two persons upon the stage to break jest, and to
bob one another, which they call repartie, not considering, that there
is more wit and invention required in the finding out good humour and
matter proper for it, then in all their smart reparties; for, in the
writing of a humour, a man is confined not to swerve from the character,
and obliged to say nothing but what is proper to it; but in the playes
which have been wrote of late, there is no such thing as perfect
character, but the two chief persons are most commonly a swearing,
drinking, whoring ruffian for a lover, and impudent, ill-bred tomrig for
a mistress, and these are the fine people of the play; and there is that
latitude in this, that almost anything is proper for them to say; but
their chief subject is bawdy, and profaneness, which they call brisk
writing, when the most dissolute of men, that relish those things well
enough in private, are choked at 'em in publick: and, methinks, if there
were nothing but the ill manners of it, it should make poets avoid that
indecent way of writing."--_Preface to the Sullen Lovers_.

Lest this provocation should be insufficient, the Prologue of the same
piece has a fling at heroic plays. The poet says he has

  "No kind romantic lover in his play
  To sigh and whine out passion, such as may
  Charm waiting-women with heroic chime,
  And still resolve to live and die in rhyme;
  Such as your ears with love and honour feast,
  And play at crambo for three hours at least,
  That fight and wooe in verse in the same breath,
  And make similitude and love in death."

Whatever symptoms of reconciliation afterwards took place between the
poets, I greatly doubt if this first offence was ever cordially

[18] Vol. vii.

[19] See these offensive passages, vol. x.

[20] Vol. x.

  "The laurel makes a wit, a brave, the sword;
  And all are wise men at the Council board:
  Settle's a coward, 'cause fool Otway fought him,
  And Mulgrave is a wit, because I taught him."
_The Tory Poets_, 4to, 1682.

[22] Jonson is described as wearing a loose coachman's coat, frequenting
the Mermaid tavern, where he drunk seas of Canary, then reeling home to
bed, and, after a profuse perspiration, arising to his dramatic studies.
Shadwell appears, from the slight traits which remain concerning him, to
have followed, as closely as possible, the same course of pleasure and
of study. He was brutal in his conversation, and much addicted to the
use of opium, to which indeed he is said finally to have fallen a

[23] [I have inserted the word "first" because Scott's language is
ambiguous. In the list of the bookseller's collection in _3_ vols. 4to,
advertised in _Amphitryon_ (1690), "Mac-Flecknoe" and the Cromwell poem
do not appear. The later plays, however, soon gave material for another
volume, and in this 4-vol. edition, advertised in _Love Triumphant_,
1694, both poems figure.--ED.]

[24] Vol. x.

[25] See some specimens of these poems, vol. ix.

[26] Vol. vi.; vol. x

[27] In a satire against Settle, dated April 1682, entitled, "A
Character of the True-blue Protestant Poet," the author exclaims, "One
would believe it almost incredible, that any out of Bedlam should think
it possible, a yesterday's fool, an errant knave, a despicable coward,
and a prophane atheist, should be to-day by the same persons, a Cowley,
a man of honour, an hero, and a zealous upholder of the Protestant cause
and interest."

[28] In the "Deliverance," an address to the Prince of Orange, published
about 9th February 1689:--

  "Alas! the famous Settle, Durfey, Tate,
   That early propped the deep intrigues of state,
  Dull Whiggish lines the world could ne'er applaud,
  While your swift genius did appear abroad:
  And then, great Bayes, whose yet unconquered pen
  Wrote with strange force as well of beasts as men,
  Whose noble genius grieved from afar,
  Because new worlds of Bayes did not appear,
  Now to contend with the ambitious elf,
  Begins a civil war against himself," etc.

[29] In 1702, probably in the capacity of civic-laureate, he wrote
"_Carmen Irenicum_," upon the union of the two East India companies; and
long afterward, in 1717, he is mentioned by Dennis as still the city

[30] He published a translation of the tenth satire of Juvenal, in the
preface to which he rails plentifully against Dryden.

[31] [The omission of Marston here is remarkable, because no satirist
exhibits this extraordinary roughness of versification more glaringly.
Scott can hardly have read him.--ED.]

I infer, that the want of harmony was intentional, from these
expressions: "It is not for every one to relish a true and natural
satire; being of itself, besides the nature and inbred bitterness and
tartness of particulars, both hard of conceit and harsh of style, and
therefore cannot but be unpleasing both to the unskilful and
over-musical ear; the one being affected with only a shallow and easy,
the other with a smooth and current, disposition."--_Postscript to
Hall's Satires_.

[32] In "Venice Preserved," the character of the foolish senator
Antonio, now judiciously omitted in the representation was said to be
meant for Shaftesbury. But Crowne's "City Politics" contained the most
barefaced exhibition of all the popular leaders, including Shaftesbury,
College the Protestant joiner, Titus Oates, and Sir William Jones. The
last is described under the character of Bartoline, with the same
lisping imperfect enunciation which distinguished the original. Let us
remark, however, to the honour of Charles II., that in "Sir Courtly
Nice," another comedy which Crowne, by his express command, imitated
from the Spanish, the furious Tory is ridiculed in the character of
Hothead, as well as the fanatical Whig under that of Testimony.

[33] See the Prologues and Epilogues in vol. x.

[34] The concealed partiality of Charles towards Monmouth survived even
the discovery of the Rye-house Plot. He could not dissemble his
satisfaction upon seeing him after his surrender, and pressed his hand
affectionately.--See Monmouth's Diary in _Wellwood's Memorials_, p. 322.

[35] Carte, in his "life of the Duke of Ormond," says, that Monmouth's
resolutions varied from submission to resistance against the king,
according to his residence with the Duchess at Moor-park, who schooled
him to the former, or with his associates and partisans in the city, who
instigated him to more desperate resolutions.

[36] This Dryden might learn from Mulgrave, who mentions in his Memoirs,
as a means of Monmouth's advancement, the "great friendship which the
Duke of York had openly professed to his wife, a lady of wit and
reputation, who had both the ambition of making her husband
considerable, and the address of succeeding in it, by using her interest
in so friendly an uncle, whose design I believe was only to convert her.
Whether this familiarity of theirs was contrived or only connived at by
the Duke of Monmouth himself, is hard to determine. But I remember,
that, after these two princes had become declared enemies, the Duke of
York one day told me, with some emotion, as conceiving it a new mark of
his nephew's insolence, that he had forbidden his wife to receive any
more visits from him; at which I could not help frankly replying, that
I, who was not used to excuse him, yet could not hold from doing it in
that case, wishing his highness might have no juster cause to complain
of him. Upon which the duke, surprised to find me excuse his and my own
enemy, changed the discourse immediately."--_Memoirs_, p. 13.

I have perused letters from Sir Gideon Scott of Highchester to the
Duchess of Monmouth, recommending a prudent and proper attention to the
Duke of York: and this advice she probably followed; for, after her
husband's execution, James restored to her all her family estates.

[37] Bought by Mr. Luttrell, 11th April 1683. See it in vol. x. It is
expressly levelled against "The Duke of Guise," and generally against
Dryden as a court poet. I may, however be wrong in ascribing it to

[38] I observe Anthony Wood, as well as Mr. Malone, suppose Hunt and the
Templar associated in the Reflections to be the same person. But in the
"Vindication of the Duke of Guise" Shadwell and they are spoke of as
three distinct persons.

[39] See vol. xvii. In this edition I have retained a specimen of a
translation which our author probably executed with peculiar care;
selecting it from the account of the barricades of Paris, as
illustrating the tragedy of "The Duke of Guise."

[40] [This story is told with great variation of figures. Johnson
mentions two and three guineas as the old and new prices; others give
four and six.--ED.]

[41] Probably alluding to having defended Clarendon in public company;
for nothing of the kind occurs in Dryden's publications. [It is not
impossible that the New Year's Day Poem (1662) to the Lord Chancellor is
partly referred to here.--ED.]

[42] Probably the translation of "_Religio Laici_."

[43] [Some important evidence has come to light since Scott wrote, which
shows that the response to Dryden's petitions and the reward of his
services was not so insignificant as appears from the text, though it
was meagre enough. The facts were not known fully even to Macaulay, and
his ignorance enabled him, in perfect honesty, to make the case against
Dryden, for supposed venal apostasy, stronger than it might otherwise
appear. The documents referred to were discovered by Mr. Peter
Cunningham and by Mr. Charles Beville Dryden, the latter of whom
communicated his discovery to Mr. Robert Bell. As the facts are
undoubted, and Macaulay's ignorance of them equally so, it seems a
little remarkable that a reviewer of the little book on Dryden to which
I am too often obliged to refer my readers, should have announced his
adherence to "Macaulay and fact" rather than "Mr. Bell and sophistry."
It is not obvious how fact can be on the side of a writer who was, owing
to no fault of his own, ignorant of the fact, and whose ignorance
furnished him with his premises. The state of the case is this. Dryden's
application to Hyde produced the following Treasury warrant:--

  --of the sume of Fifty pounds for one
  quarter of the said Annuity or Pencon due at Mid-summer
  1680. And by Vertue of his Ma'ts Lres of Privy
  Scale directing an additionall Annuity of One hundred
  pounds to him the said John Dryden to draw one or
  more orders for payment of the sume of Twenty five
  Pounds for one Quarter of the said Annuity due at
  Lady day 1680. And let both the said sumes making
  the sume of Seaventy Five Pounds be satisfyed out of
  any his Ma'ts Treasure now or hereafter being and
  remaining in the Receipt of Excheq'r not appropriated
  to particular uses For w'ch this shal be your Warrant.

  Whitehall Treasury Chambers May the 6th 1684

  To our very Loving friend S'r Robert                       Rochester
  howard Kn't Auditor of the Receipt                         J Ernle'r
  of his Ma'ts Excheq'r.                                     Ed Dering
  Int'r. in officio Auditor                                  Ste: ffox
  Recpt see-ij Dni Regis                  Int'r in Oficio Clei Pell &c.
  Mr. Dryden 75_l_.

It will be seen from this that independently of the appointment of the
laureateship, Dryden had in or before the year 1679 received an
additional pension of £100 a year. Confirmatory of this is a Treasury
order for the quarter of the same pension, due January 5th, 1679, and a
secret service payment of the same year, apparently referring to the
same pension. Moreover, on December 17th, 1683, Dryden was appointed
collector of customs in the port of London. The value of this is
unknown, but the sum of £5 for collecting the duties on cloth, which is
the only part of the emoluments as to which there is documentary
evidence, must have been a very small part of it. Now these two
appointments, the laureateship and the collectorship, were by
letters-patent, and were, in the usual course, confirmed on the
accession of the new Sovereign, though James characteristically cut out
the butt of sack. But the extra pension, which was merely granted by
letters of privy seal, lapsed, and it was absolutely within the
discretion of the new Sovereign to continue or discontinue it. It was
not formally regranted for a year, and this pension was mistaken by
Macaulay for an original one granted in payment of apostasy. That the
difference is very considerable must strike every one, and I for one
cannot see that the drawing of the obvious inference can be called
sophistry. If the time between the lapsing and the regranting seems
long, it has to be observed, first, that arrears to the date of the
lapse are carefully specified; secondly, that even in the case of the
laureateship patent, four whole months, as has been seen, elapsed
between the instruction for it and the patent itself. The circumstances
are, of course, consistent with the supposition that apostasy was made a
condition of the renewal; but they cannot be said to supply of
themselves any argument in favour of such a supposition.--ED.]


_Threnodia Augustalis--Albion and Albanius--Dryden becomes a Catholic--
The Controversy of Dryden with Stillingfleet--The Hind and Panther--Life
of St. Francis Xavier--Consequences of the Revolution to Dryden--Don
Sebastian--King Arthur--Cleomenes--Love Triumphant._

The accession of James II. to the British throne excited new hopes in
all orders of men. On the accession of a new prince, the loyal looked to
rewards, the rebellious to amnesty. The Catholics exulted in beholding
one of their persuasion attain the crown after an interval of two
centuries; the Church of England expected the fruits of her unlimited
devotion to the royal line; even the sectaries might hope indulgence
from a prince whose religion deviated from that established by law as
widely as their own. All, therefore, hastened, in sugared addresses, to
lament the sun which had set, and hail the beams of that which had
arisen. Dryden, among other expectants, chose the more honourable of
these themes; and in the "_Threnodia Augustalis_," at once paid a
tribute to the memory of the deceased monarch, and decently solicited
the attention of his successor. But although he had enjoyed personal
marks of the favour of Charles, they were of a nature too unsubstantial
to demand a deep tone of sorrow. "Little was the muses' hire, and light
their gain;" and "the pension of a prince's praise" is stated to have
been all their encouragement. Dryden, therefore, by no means sorrowed as
if he had no hope; but, having said all that was decently mournful over
the bier of Charles, tuned his lyrics to a sounding close in praise of

About the same time, Dryden resumed, with new courage, the opera of
"Albion and Albanius," which had been nearly finished before the death
of Charles. This was originally designed as a masque, or emblematical
prelude to the play of "King Arthur;" for Dryden, wearied with the
inefficient patronage of Charles, from whom he only "received fair
words," had renounced in despair the task of an epic poem, and had
converted one of his themes, that of the tale of Arthur, into the
subject of a romantic drama. As the epic was to have been adapted to the
honour and praise of Charles and his brother, the opera had originally
the same political tendency. "Albion and Albanius" was a sort of
introductory masque, in which, under a very thin veil of allegory,
first, the restoration of the Stuarts to the throne, and, secondly,
their recent conquest over their Whig opponents, were successively
represented. The death of Charles made little alteration in this piece:
it cost but the addition of an apotheosis; and the opera concluded with
the succession of James to the throne, from which he had been so nearly
excluded. These topics were however temporary; and, probably from the
necessity of producing it while the allusions were fresh and obvious,
"Albion and Albanius" was detached from "King Arthur," which was not in
such a state of forwardness. Great expense was bestowed in bringing
forward this piece, and the scenery seems to have been unusually
perfect; particularly, the representation of a celestial phenomenon,
actually seen by Captain Gunman of the navy, whose evidence is quoted in
the printed copies of the play.[1] The music of "Albion and Albanius"
was arranged by Grabut, a Frenchman, whose name does not stand high as a
composer. Yet Dryden pays him some compliments in the preface of the
piece, which were considered as derogatory to Purcel and the English
school, and gave great offence to a class of persons at least as
irritable as their brethren the poets. This, among other causes, seems
to have injured the success of the piece. But its death-blow was the
news of the Duke of Monmouth's invasion, which reached London on
Saturday, 13th June 1685, while "Albion and Albanius" was performing for
the sixth time: the audience broke up in consternation, and the piece
was never again repeated.[2] This opera was prejudicial to the company,
who were involved by the expense in a considerable debt, and never
recovered half the money laid out. Neither was it of service to our
poet's reputation, who had, on this occasion, to undergo the gibes of
angry musicians, as well as the reproaches of disappointed actors and
hostile poets. One went so far as to suggest, with some humour, that
probably the laureate and Grabut had mistaken their trade; the forming
writing the music, and the latter the verse.

We have now reached a remarkable incident in our author's life, namely,
his conversion to the Catholic faith, which took place shortly after the
accession of James II. to the British throne. The biographer of Dryden
must feel considerable difficulty in discussing the probable causes of
his change. Although this essay be intended to contain the life, not the
apology of the poet, it is the duty of the writer to place such
circumstances in view, as may qualify the strong prepossession at first
excited by a change of faith against the individual who makes it. This
prepossession, powerful in every case, becomes doubly so, if the step be
taken at a time when the religion adopted seems more readily to pave the
way for the temporal prosperity of the proselyte. Even where the grounds
of conviction are ample and undeniable, we have a respect for those who
suffer, rather than renounce a mistaken faith, when it is
discountenanced or persecuted. A brave man will least of all withdraw
himself from his ancient standard when the tide of battle beats against
it. On the other hand, those who at such a period admit conviction to
the better and predominant doctrine, are viewed with hatred by the
members of the deserted creed, and with doubt by their new brethren in
faith. Many who adopted Christianity in the reign of Constantine were
doubtless sincere proselytes, but we do not find that any of them have
been canonised. These feelings must be allowed powerfully to affect the
mind, when we reflect that Dryden, a servant of the court and zealously
attached to the person of James, to whom he looked for the reward of
long and faithful service, did not receive any mark of royal favour
until he professed himself a member of the religion for which that king
was all but an actual martyr. There are other considerations, however,
greatly qualifying the conclusions which might be drawn from these
suspicious circumstances, and tending to show, that Dryden's conversion
was at least in a great measure effected by sincere conviction. The
principal clew to the progress of his religious principles is to be
found in the poet's own lines in "The Hind and the Panther," and may, by
a very simple commentary, be applied to the state of his religious
opinions at different periods of his life:--

  "My thoughtless youth was winged with vain desires;
  My manhood, long misled by wandering fires,
  Followed false lights, and, when their glimpse was gone,
  My pride struck out new sparkles of her own.
  Such was I, such by nature still I am;
  Be thine the glory, and be mine the shame!"

The "vain desires" of Dryden's "thoughtless youth" require no
explanation: they obviously mean, that inattention to religious duties
which the amusements of youth too frequently occasion. The "false
lights" which bewildered the poet's manhood, were, I doubt not, the
puritanical tenets, which, coming into the world under the auspices of
his fanatical relations, Sir Gilbert Pickering and Sir John Driden, he
must have at least professed, but probably seriously entertained. It
must be remembered, that the poet was thirty years of age at the
Restoration, so that a considerable space of his full-grown manhood had
passed while the rigid doctrines of the fanatics were still the order of
the day. But the third state of his opinions, those "sparkles which his
pride struck out," after the delusions of puritanism had vanished; in
other words, those sentiments which he imbibed after the Restoration,
and which immediately preceded his adoption of the Catholic faith,
cannot be ascertained without more minute investigation. We may at the
outset be easily permitted to assume, that the adoption of a fixed creed
of religious principles was not the first business of our author, when
that merry period set him free from the rigorous fetters of fanaticism.
Unless he differed more than we can readily believe from the public
feeling at that time, Dryden was satisfied to give to Caesar the things
that were Caesar's, without being in a hurry to fulfil the counterpart
of the precept. Foremost in the race of pleasure, engaged in labours
alien from serious reflection, the favourite of the most lively and
dissolute nobility whom England ever saw, religious thoughts were not,
at this period, likely to intrude frequently upon his mind, or to be
encouraged when they did so. The time, therefore, when Dryden began
seriously to compare the doctrines of the contending sects of
Christianity, was probably several years after the Restoration, when
reiterated disappointment, and satiety of pleasure, prompted his mind to
retire within itself, and think upon hereafter. The "_Religio Laici_"
published in 1682, evinces that, previous to composing that poem, the
author had bestowed serious consideration upon the important subjects of
which it treats: and I have postponed the analysis of it to this place,
in order that the reader may be able to form his own conjecture from
what faith Dryden changed when he became a Catholic.

The "_Religio Laici_" has indeed a political tendency, being written to
defend the Church of England against the sectaries: it is not therefore,
so much from the conclusions of the piece, as from the mode of the
author's deducing these conclusions, that Dryden's real opinions may he
gathered;--as we learn nothing of the bowl's bias from its having
reached its mark, though something may be conjectured by observing the
course which it described in attaining it. From many minute particulars,
I think it almost decisive, that Dryden, when he wrote the "_Religio
Laici_," was sceptical concerning revealed religion. I do not mean, that
his doubts were of that fixed and permanent nature, which have at
different times induced men, of whom better might have been hoped, to
pronounce themselves freethinkers on principle. On the contrary, Dryden
seems to have doubted with such a strong wish to believe, as,
accompanied with circumstances of extrinsic influence, led him finally
into the opposite extreme of credulity. His view of the doctrines of
Christianity, and of its evidence, were such as could not legitimately
found him in the conclusions he draws in favour of the Church of
England; and accordingly, in adopting them, he evidently stretches his
complaisance towards the national religion, while perhaps in his heart
he was even then disposed to think there was no middle course between
natural religion and the Church of Rome. The first creed which he
examines is that of Deism; which he rejects, because the worship of one
sole deity was not known to the philosophers of antiquity, and is
therefore obviously to be ascribed to revelation. Revelation thus
proved, the puzzling doubt occurs, whether the Scripture, as contended
by Calvinists, was to be the sole rule of faith, or whether the rules
and traditions of the Church are to be admitted in explanation of the
holy text. Here Dryden does not hesitate to point out the inconveniences
ensuing from making the sacred page the subject of the dubious and
contradictory commentary of the laity at large: when

  "The common rule was made the common prey,
  And at the mercy of the rabble lay;
  The tender page with horny fists was galled,
  And he was gifted most that loudest bawled;
  The spirit gave the doctoral degree,
  And every member of a company
  Was of his trade and of the Bible free."

This was the rule of the sectaries,--of those whose innovations seemed,
in the eyes of the Tories, to be again bursting in upon monarchy and
episcopacy with the strength of a land-flood. Dryden, therefore, at
once, and heartily, reprobates it. But the opposite extreme of admitting
the authority of the Church as omnipotent in deciding all matters of
faith, he does not give up with the same readiness. The extreme
convenience, nay almost necessity, for such authority, is admitted in
these remarkable lines:

  "Such an omniscient church we _wish_ indeed;
  _'Twere worth both Testaments, cast in the Creed._"

A wish, so forcibly expressed, shows a strong desire on the part of the
poet to be convinced of the existence of what he so ardently desired.
And the argument which Dryden considers as conclusive against the
existence of such an omniscient church, is precisely that which a subtle
Catholic would find little trouble in repelling. If there be such a
church, says Dryden, why does it not point out the corruption of the
canon, and restore it where lost? The answer is obvious, providing that
the infallibility of the church be previously assumed; for where can the
necessity of restoring or explaining Scripture, if God has given, to
Pope and Council, the inspiration necessary to settle all doubts in
matters of faith? Dryden must have perceived where this argument led
him, and he rather compounds with the difficulty than faces it. The
Scripture, he admits, must be the rule on the one hand; but, on the
other, it was to be qualified with the traditions of the earlier ages,
and the exposition of learned men. And he concludes, boldly enough:

  "Shall I speak plain, and, in a nation free,
  Assume an honest layman's liberty?
  I think, according to my little skill,
  To my own mother-church submitting still,
  That many have been saved, and many may,
  Who never heard this question brought in play.
  The unlettered Christian, who believes in gross,
  Plods on to heaven, and ne'er is at a loss;
  For the strait gate would be made straiter yet,
  Were none admitted there but men of wit."

This seems to be a plain admission, that the author was involved in a
question from which he saw no very decided mode of extricating himself;
and that the best way was to think as little as possible upon the
subject. But this was a sorry conclusion for affording firm foundation
in religious faith.

Another doubt appears to have puzzled Dryden so much, as to lead him
finally to the Catholic faith for its solution. This was the future fate
of those who never heard the gospel preached, supposing belief in it
essential to salvation:

  "Because a general law is that alone,
  Which must to all, and every where, be known."

Dryden, it is true, founds upon the mercy of the Deity a hope, that the
benefit of the propitiatory sacrifice of our Mediator may be extended to
those who knew not of its power. But the creed of St. Athanasius stands
in the poet's road; and though he disposes of it with less reverence to
the patriarch than is quite seemly, there is an indecision, if not in
his conclusion, at least in his mode of deducing it, that shows an apt
inclination to cut the knot, and solve the objection of the Deist, by
alleging, that belief in the Christian religion is an essential
requisite to salvation.

If I am right in these remarks, it will follow, that Dryden never could
be a firm or steady believer in the Church of England's doctrines. The
arguments, by which he proved them, carried him too far; and when he
commenced a teacher of faith, or when, as he expresses it, "his pride
struck out new sparkles of its own," at that very time, while in words
he maintained the doctrines of his mother-church, his conviction really
hovered between natural religion and the faith of Rome. It is remarkable
that his friends do not seem to have considered the "_Religio Laici_" as
expressive of his decided sentiments; for Charles Blount, a noted
free-thinker, in consequence of that very work, wrote a deistical
treatise in prose, bearing the same title, and ascribed it with great
testimony of respect to "his much-honoured friend, John Dryden,
Esquire."[3] Mr. Blount, living in close habits with Dryden, must have
known perfectly well how to understand his polemical poem; and, had he
supposed it was written under a deep belief of the truth of the English
creed, can it be thought he would have inscribed to the author a tract
against all revelation?[4] The inference is, therefore, sufficiently
plain, that the dedicator knew that Dryden was sceptical on the subject,
on which he had, out of compliment to Church and State, affected a
conviction; and that his "_Religio Laici_" no more inferred a belief in
the doctrines of Christianity, than the sacrifice of a cock to
Esculapius proved the heathen philosopher's faith in the existence of
that divine leech. Thus far Dryden had certainly proceeded. His
disposition to believe in Christianity was obvious, but he was
bewildered in the maze of doubt in which he was involved; and it was
already plain, that the Church, whose promises to illuminate him were
most confident, was likely to have the honour of this distinguished
proselyte. Dryden did not, therefore, except in outward profession,
abandon the Church of England for that of Rome, but was converted to the
Catholic faith from a state of infidelity, or rather of Pyrrhonism. This
is made more clear by the words of Dryden, from which it appears that,
having once admitted the mysterious doctrines of the Trinity and of
redemption, so incomprehensible to human reason, he felt no right to
make any further appeal to that fallible guide:

  "Good life be now my task; my doubts are done;
  What more could fright my faith than three in one?
  Can I believe Eternal God could lie
  Disguised in mortal mould, and infancy?
  That the great Maker of the world could die?
  And after that trust my imperfect sense,
  Which calls in question his omnipotence?"

From these lines it may be safely inferred, that Dryden's sincere
acquiescence in the more abstruse points of Christianity did not long
precede his adoption of the Roman faith. In some preceding verses it
appears, how eagerly he received the conviction of the Church's
infallibility as affording that guide, the want of whom he had in some
degree lamented in the "_Religio Laici_:"

  "What weight of ancient witness can prevail,
  If private reason hold the public scale?
  But, gracious God, how well dost thou provide
  For erring judgments an unerring guide!
  Thy throne is darkness in the abyss of light,
  A blaze of glory that forbids the sight.
  O teach me to believe thee, thus concealed,
  And search no farther than thyself revealed;
  But her alone for my director take,
  Whom thou hast promised never to forsake!"

We find, therefore, that Dryden's conversion was not of that sordid kind
which is the consequence of a strong temporal interest; for he had
expressed intelligibly the imagined _desiderata_ which the Church of
Rome alone pretends to supply, long before that temporal interest had an
existence. Neither have we to reproach him, that, grounded and rooted in
a pure Protestant creed, he was foolish enough to abandon it for the
more corrupted doctrines of Rome. He did not unloose from the secure
haven to moor in the perilous road; but, being tossed on the billows of
uncertainty, he dropped his anchor in the first moorings to which the
winds, waves, and perhaps an artful pilot, chanced to convey his bark.
We may indeed regret, that, having to choose between two religions, he
should have adopted that which our education, reason, and even
prepossessions, combine to point out as foully corrupted from the
primitive simplicity of the Christian Church. But neither the Protestant
Christian, nor the sceptic philosopher, can claim a right to despise the
sophistry which bewildered the judgment of Chillingworth, or the toils
which enveloped the active and suspicious minds of Bayle and of Gibbon.
The latter, in his account of his own conversion to the Catholic faith,
fixes upon the very arguments pleaded by Dryden, as those which appeared
to him irresistible. The early traditions of the Church, the express
words of the text, are referred to by both as the grounds of their
conversion; and the works of Bossuet, so frequently referred to by the
poet, were the means of influencing the determination of the
philosopher.[5] The victorious argument to which Chillingworth himself
yielded, was, "that there must be somewhere an infallible judge, and the
Church of Rome is the only Christian society, which either does or can
pretend to that character."

It is also to be observed, that towards the end of Charles II.'s reign,
the High Churchmen and the Catholics regarded themselves as on the same
side in political questions, and not greatly divided in their temporal
interests. Both were sufferers in the Plot, both were enemies of the
sectaries, both were adherents of the Stuarts.

Alternate conversion had been common between them, so early as since
Milton made a reproach to the English universities of the converts to
the Roman faith daily made within their colleges; of those sheep,

     "Whom the grim wolf with privy paw
  Daily devours apace and nothing said."

In approaching Dryden, therefore, a Catholic priest had to combat few of
those personal prejudices which, in other cases, have been impediments
to their making converts. The poet had, besides, before him the example
of many persons both of rank and talent, who had adopted the Catholic

Such being the disposition of Dryden's mind, and such the peculiar
facilities of the Roman Churchmen in making proselytes, it is by no
means to be denied, that circumstances in the poet's family and
situation strongly forwarded his taking such a step. His Wife, Lady
Elizabeth, had for some time been a Catholic; and though she may be
acquitted of any share in influencing his determination, yet her new
faith necessarily brought into his family persons both able and disposed
to do so. His eldest and best beloved son, Charles, is also said, though
upon uncertain authority, to have been a Catholic before his father, and
to have contributed to his change.[6] Above all, James his master, to
whose fortunes he had so closely attached himself, had now become as
parsimonious of his favour as his Church is of salvation, and restricted
it to those of his own sect. It is more than probable, though only a
conjecture, that Dryden might be made the subject of those private
exhortations, which in that reign were called _closeting_; and,
predisposed as he was, he could hardly be supposed capable of resisting
the royal eloquence. For, while pointing out circumstances of proof,
that Dryden's conversion was not made by manner of bargain and sale, but
proceeded upon a sincere though erroneous conviction, it cannot be
denied, that his situation as poet-laureate, and his expectations from
the king, must have conduced to his taking his final resolution. All I
mean to infer from the above statement is, that his interest and
internal conviction led him to the same conclusion.

If we are to judge of Dryden's sincerity in his new faith, by the
determined firmness with which report retained it through good report
and bad report we must allow him to have been a martyr, or at least a
confessor, in the Catholic cause. If after the Revolution, like many
greater men, he had changed his principles with the times, he was not a
person of such mark as to be selected from all the nation, and punished
for former tenets. Supported by the friendship of Rochester, and most of
the Tory nobles who were active in the Revolution, of Leicester, and
many Whigs, and especially of the Lord-Chamberlain Dorset, there would
probably have been little difficulty in his remaining poet-laureate, if
he had recanted the errors of Popery. But the Catholic religion, and the
consequent disqualifications, was an insurmountable obstacle to his
holding that or any other office under government; and Dryden's
adherence to it, with all the poverty, reproach, and even persecution
which followed the profession, argued a deep and substantial conviction
of the truth of the doctrines it inculcated. So late as 1699, when an
union, in opposition to King William, had led the Tories and Whigs to
look on each other with some kindness, Dryden thus expresses himself in
a letter to his cousin, Mrs. Steward: "The court rather speaks kindly of
me, than does anything for me, though they promise largely; and perhaps
they think I will advance as they go backward, in which they will be
much deceived: for I can never go an inch beyond my conscience and my
honour. If they will consider me as a man who has done my best to
improve the language, and especially the poetry, and will be content
with my acquiescence under the present government, and forbearing satire
on it, that I can promise, because I can perform it: but I can neither
take the oaths, nor forsake my religion; because I know not what Church
to go to, if I leave the Catholic: they are all so divided amongst
themselves in matters of faith, necessary to salvation, and yet all
assuming the name of Protestants. May God be pleased to open your eyes,
as he has opened mine! Truth is but one, and they who have once heard of
it, can plead no excuse if they do not embrace it. But these are things
too serious for a trifling letter."[7] If, therefore, adherence to the
communion of a falling sect, loaded too at the time with heavy
disqualifications, and liable to yet more dangerous suspicions, can be
allowed as a proof of sincerity, we can hardly question that Dryden was,
from the date of his conviction, a serious and sincere Roman Catholic.

The conversion of Dryden did not long remain unrewarded,[8] nor was his
pen suffered to be idle in the cause which he had adopted. On the 4th of
March 1685-6, an hundred pounds a year, payable quarterly, was added to
his pension:[9] and probably he found himself more at ease under the
regular and economical government of James, than when his support
depended on the exhausted exchequer of Charles. Soon after the granting
of this boon, he was employed to defend the reasons of conversion to the
Catholic faith, alleged by Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, which, together
with two papers on a similar subject, said to be found in Charles II.'s
strong box. James had with great rashness given to the public.
Stillingfleet, now at the head of the champions of the Protestant faith,
published some sharp remarks on these papers. Another hand, probably
that of a Jesuit, was employed to vindicate against him the royal
grounds of conversion; while to Dryden was committed the charge of
defending those alleged by the Duchess. The tone of Dryden's apology
was, to say the least, highly injudicious, and adapted to irritate the
feelings of the clergy of the established church, already sufficiently
exasperated to see the sacrifices which they had made to the royal cause
utterly forgotten, the moment that they paused in the extremity of their
devotion towards the monarch. The name of "Legion," which the apologist
bestows on his adversaries, intimates the committee of the clergy by
whom the Protestant cause was then defended; and the tone of his
arguments is harsh, contemptuous, and insulting. A raker up of the ashes
of princes, an hypocrite, a juggler, a latitudinarian, are the best
terms which he affords the advocate of the Church of England, in defence
of which he had so lately been himself a distinguished champion.
Stillingfleet returned to the charge; and when he came to the part of
the Defence written by Dryden, he did not spare the personal invective,
to which the acrimonious style of the poet-laureate had indeed given an
opening, "Zeal," says Stillingfleet, "in a new convert, is a terrible
thing, for it not only burns, but rages like the eruptions of Mount
Etna; it fills the air with noise and smoke, and throws out such a
torrent of living fire, that there is no standing before it." In another
passage, Stillingfleet talks of the "temptation of changing religion for
bread;" in another, our author's words, that

  "Priests of all religions are the same," [10]

are quoted to infer, that he who has no religion may declare for any.
Dryden took his revenge both on Stillingfleet the author, and on Burnet,
whom he seems to have regarded as the reviser of this answer, in his
polemical poem of "The Hind and the Panther."

If we can believe an ancient tradition, this poem was chiefly composed
in a country retirement at Rushton, near his birth-place in Huntingdon
[Northamptonshire]. There was an embowered walk at this place, which,
from the pleasure which the poet took in it, retained the name of
Dryden's Walk; and here was erected, about the middle of last century,
an urn, with the following inscription: "In memory of Dryden, who
frequented these shades, and is here said to have composed his poem of
'The Hind and the Panther.'"[11]

"The Hind and the Panther" was written with a view to obviate the
objections of the English clergy and people to the power of dispensing
with the test laws, usurped by James II. A change of political measures,
which took place while the poem was composing, has greatly injured its
unity and consistence. In the earlier part of his reign, James
endeavoured to gain the Church of England, by fair means and flattery,
to submit to the remission which he claimed the liberty of granting to
the Catholics. The first part of Dryden's poem is written upon this
soothing plan; the Panther, or Church of England, is

          "sure the noblest next the Hind,
  And fairest offspring of the spotted kind.
  Oh could her inborn stains be washed away,
  She were too good to be a beast of prey."

The sects, on the other hand, are characterised, wolves, bears, boars,
foxes,--all that is odious and horrible in the brute creation. But ere
the poem was published, the king had assumed a different tone with the
established church. Relying upon the popularity which the suspension of
the penal laws was calculated to procure among the Dissenters, he
endeavoured to strengthen his party by making common cause between them
and the Catholics, and bidding open defiance to the Church of England.
For a short time, and with the most ignorant of the sectaries, this plan
seemed to succeed; the pleasure of a triumph over their ancient enemies
rendering them blind to the danger of the common Protestant cause.
During this interval the poem was concluded; and the last book seems to
consider the cause of the Hind and Panther as gone to a final issue, and
incapable of any amicable adjustment. The Panther is fairly resigned to
her fate:

  "Her hour of grace was passed,"

and the downfall of the English hierarchy is foretold in that of the
Doves, who, in a subaltern allegory, represent the clergy of the
established church:

  "Tis said, the Doves repented, though too late,
  Become the smiths of their own foolish fate:
  Nor did their owner hasten their ill hour,
  But, sunk in credit, they decreased in power;
  Like snows in warmth that mildly pass away,
  Dissolving in the silence of decay."

In the preface, as well as in the course of the poem, Dryden frequently
alludes to his dispute with Stillingfleet; and perhaps none of his poems
contain finer lines than those in which he takes credit for the painful
exertion of Christian forbearance when called by injured feeling to
resent personal accusation:--

  "If joys hereafter must be purchased here
  With loss of all that mortals hold so dear,
  Then welcome infamy and public shame,
  And last, a long farewell to worldly fame!
  'Tis said with ease; but, oh, how hardly tried
  By haughty souls to human honour tied!
  O sharp convulsive pangs of agonising pride!
  Down then, rebel, never more to rise!
  And what thou didst, and dost, so dearly prize,
  That fame, that darling fame, make that thy sacrifice.
  'Tis nothing thou hast given; then add thy tears
  For a long race of unrepenting years:
  'Tis nothing yet, yet all thou hast to give;
  Then add those may-be years thou hast to live:
  Yet nothing still: then poor and naked come,
  Thy father will receive his unthrift home,
  And thy blest Saviour's blood discharge the mighty sum."

Stillingfleet is, however, left personally undistinguished, but Burnet,
afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, receives chastisement in his stead. The
character of this prelate, however unjustly exaggerated, preserves many
striking and curious traits of resemblance to the original; and, as was
natural, gave deep offence to the party for whom it was drawn. For not
only did Burnet at the time express himself with great asperity of
Dryden, but long afterwards, when writing his history, he pronounced a
severe censure on the immorality of his plays, so inaccurately expressed
as to be applicable, by common construction to the author's private
character. From this coarse and inexplicit accusation, the memory of
Dryden was indignantly vindicated by his friend Lord Lansdowne.

It is also worth remarking, that in the allegory of the swallows,
introduced in the Third Part of "The Hind and the Panther," the author
seems to have had in his eye the proposal made at a grand consult of the
Catholics, that they should retire from the general and increasing
hatred of all ranks, and either remain quiet at home, or settle abroad.
This plan, which originated in their despair of James's being able to do
anything effectual in their favour, was set aside by the fiery
opposition of Father Petre, the martin of the fable told by the Panther
to the Hind.[12]

The appearance of "The Hind and the Panther" excited a clamour against
the author far more general than the publication of "Absalom and
Achitophel." Upon that occasion the offence was given only to a party,
but this open and avowed defence of James's strides towards arbitrary
power, with the unpopular circumstance of its coming from a new convert
to the royal faith, involved our poet in the general suspicion with
which the nation at large now viewed the slightest motions of their
infatuated monarch. The most noted amongst those who appeared to oppose
the triumphant advocate of the Hind, were Montague and Prior, young men
now rising into eminence. They joined to produce a parody entitled the
"Town and Country Mouse;" part of which Mr. Bayes is supposed to gratify
his old friends, Smith and Johnson, by repeating to them. The piece is,
therefore, founded upon the twice-told jest of the "Rehearsal." Of the
parody itself, we have given ample specimen in its proper place. There
is nothing new or original in the idea, which chiefly turns upon the
ridiculing the poem of Dryden, where religious controversy is made the
subject of dispute and adjustment between a Hind and a Panther, who vary
between their typical character of animals and their real character as
the Catholic and English Church. In this piece, Prior, though the
younger man, seems to have had by far the larger share. Lord
Peterborough, on being asked whether the satire was not written by
Montague in conjunction with Prior, answered, "Yes; as if I, seated in
Mr. Cheselden's chaise drawn by his fine horse, should say, _Lord!_ how
finely we draw this chaise!" Indeed, although the parody was trite and
obvious, the satirists had the public upon their side; and it now seems
astonishing with what acclamations this attack upon the most able
champion of James's faith was hailed by his discontented subjects.
Dryden was considered as totally overcome by his assailants; they deemed
themselves, and were deemed by others, as worthy of very distinguished
and weighty recompence;[13] and what was yet a more decisive mark, that
their bolt had attained its mark, the aged poet is said to have
lamented, even with tears, the usage he had received from two young men,
to whom he had been always civil. This last circumstance is probably
exaggerated. Montague and Prior had doubtless been frequenters of Will's
coffee-house, where Dryden held the supreme rule in criticism, and had
thus, among other rising wits, been distinguished by him. That he should
have felt their satire is natural, for the arrow flew with the wind, and
popularity amply supplied its deficiency in real vigour; but the reader
may probably conclude with Johnson, that Dryden was too much hackneyed
in political warfare to suffer so deeply from the parody, as Dr.
Lockier's anecdote would lead us to believe. "If we can suppose him
vexed," says that accurate judge of human nature, "we can hardly deny
him sense to conceal his uneasiness."

Although Prior and Montague were first in place and popularity, there
wanted not the usual crowd of inferior satirists and poetasters to
follow them to the charge. "The Hind and the Panther" was assailed by a
variety of pamphlets, by Tom Brown and others, of which an account, with
specimens perhaps more than sufficient, is annexed to the notes on the
poem in this edition. It is worth mentioning, that on this, as on a
former occasion, an adversary of Dryden chose to select one of his own
poems as a contrast to his latter opinions. The "_Religio Laici_" was
reprinted, and carefully opponed to the various passages of "The Hind
and the Panther," which appeared most contradictory to its tenets. But
while the Grub-street editor exulted in successfully pointing out the
inconsistency between Dryden's earlier and later religious opinions, he
was incapable of observing, that the change was adopted in consequence
of the same unbroken train of reasoning, and that Dryden, when he wrote
the "_Religio Laici_" was under the impulse of the same conviction,
which, further prosecuted, led him to acquiesce in the faith of Rome.

The king appears to have been hardly less anxious to promote the
dispersion of "The Hind I and the Panther," than the Protestant party to
ridicule the piece and its author. It was printed about the same time at
London and in Edinburgh, where a printing-press was maintained in
Holyrood House, for the dispersion of tracts favouring the Catholic
religion. The poem went rapidly through two or three editions; a
circumstance rather to be imputed to the celebrity of the author, and to
the anxiety which foes, as well as friends, entertained to learn his
sentiments, than to any disposition to acquiesce in his arguments.

But Dryden's efforts in favour of the Catholic cause were not limited to
this controversial poem. He is said to have been at first employed by
the court, in translating Varillas's "History of Heresies," a work held
in considerable estimation by the Catholic divines. Accordingly, an
entry to that purpose was made by Tonson in the Stationers' books, of
such a translation made by Dryden at his Majesty's command. This
circumstance is also mentioned by Burnet, who adds, in very coarse and
abusive terms, that the success of his own remarks having destroyed the
character of Varillas as an historian, the disappointed translator
revenged himself by the severe character of the Buzzard, under which the
future Bishop of Sarum is depicted in "The Hind and the Panther."[14]
The credulity of Burnet, especially where his vanity was concerned was
unbounded; and there seems room to trace Dryden's attack upon him,
rather to some real or supposed concern in the controversy about the
Duchess of York's papers, so often alluded to in the poem, than to the
commentary on Varillas, which is not once mentioned. Yet it seems
certain that Dryden entertained thoughts of translating "The History of
Heresies;" and, for whatever reason, laid the task aside. He soon after
was engaged in a task, of a kind as unpromising as remote from his
poetical studies, and connected, in the same close degree, with the
religious views of the unfortunate James II. This was no other than the
translation of "The Life of St. Francis Xavier," one of the last adopted
saints of the Catholic Church, at least whose merits and supposed
miracles were those of a missionary. Xavier is perhaps among the latest
also, whose renown for sanctity, and the powers attending it, appears to
have been extensive even while he was yet alive.[15] Above all, he was
of the order of Jesuits, and the very saint to whom Mary of Este had
addressed her vows, in hopes to secure a Catholic successor to the
throne of England.[16] It was, therefore, natural enough, that Dryden
should have employed himself in translating the life of a saint, whose
virtues must at that time have appeared so peculiarly meritorious; whose
praises were so acceptable to his patroness; and whose miracles were
wrought for the credit of the Catholic Church, within so late a period,
besides, the work had been composed by Bartoli, in Portuguese; and by
Bouhours, in French. With the merits of the latter we are well
acquainted; of the former, Dryden speaks highly in the dedication. It
may perhaps be more surprising, that the present editor should have
retained this translation, than that Dryden should have undertaken it.
But surely the only work of this very particular and enthusiastic
nature, which the modern English language has to exhibit, was worthy of
preservation, were it but as a curiosity. The creed and the character of
Catholic faith are now so much forgotten among us (popularly speaking),
that, in reading the "Life of Xavier," the Protestant finds himself in a
new and enchanted land. The motives, and the incidents and the
doctrines, are alike new to him, and, indeed, occasionally form a
strange contrast among themselves. There are few who can read, without a
sentiment of admiration, the heroic devotion with which, from the
highest principle of duty, Xavier exposes himself to hardship, to
danger, to death itself, that he may win souls to the Christian faith.
The most rigid Protestant, and the most indifferent philosopher, cannot
deny to him the courage and patience of a martyr, with the good sense,
resolution, ready wit, and address of the best negotiator, that ever
went upon a temporal embassy. It is well that our admiration is
qualified by narrations so monstrous, as his actually restoring the dead
to life;[17] so profane, as the inference concerning the sweating
crucifix;[18] so trivial and absurd, as a crab's fishing up the saint's
cross, which had fallen into the sea; and,[19] to conclude, so shocking
to humanity, as the account of the saint passing by the house of his
ancestors, the abode of his aged mother, on his road to leave Europe for
ever, and conceiving he did God good service in denying himself the
melancholy consolation of a last farewell.[20] Altogether, it forms a
curious picture of the human mind, strung to a pitch of enthusiasm,
which we can only learn from such narratives: and those to whom this
affords no amusement, may glean some curious particulars from the "Life
of Xavier," concerning the state of India and Japan, at the time of his
mission, as well as of the internal regulations and singular policy
adopted by the society, of which the saint was a member. Besides the
"Life of Xavier," Dryden is said to have translated Bossuet's
"Exposition of the Catholic Doctrine;" but for this we have but slight

Dryden's political and polemic discussions naturally interfered at this
period with his more general poetical studies. About the period of
James's accession, Tonson had indeed published a second volume of
Miscellanies, to which our poet contributed a critical preface, with
various translations from Virgil, Lucretius, and Theocritus and four
Odes of Horace; of which the third of the First Book is happily applied
to Lord Roscommon, and the twenty-ninth to Lawrence Hyde, Earl of
Rochester. Upon these and his other translations Garth has the following
striking and forcible observations, though expressed in language
somewhat quaint. "I cannot pass by that admirable English poet, without
endeavouring to make his country sensible of the obligations they have
to his Muse. Whether they consider the flowing grace of his
versification, the vigorous sallies of his fancy, or the peculiar
delicacy of his periods, they all discover excellencies never to be
enough admired. If they trace him from the first productions of his
youth to the last performances of his age, they will find, that as the
tyranny of rhyme never imposed on the perspicuity of sense, so a languid
sense never wanted to be set off by the harmony of rhyme. And, as his
early works wanted no maturity, so his latter wanted no force or spirit.
The falling off of his hair had no other consequence than to make his
laurels be seen the more.

"As a translator, he was just; as an inventor, he was rich. His versions
of some parts of Lucretius, Horace, Homer, and Virgil, throughout gave
him a just pretence to that compliment which was made to Monsieur
d'Ablancourt, a celebrated French translator. _It is uncertain who have
the greatest obligation to him, the dead or the living._

"With all these wondrous talents, he was libelled, in his lifetime, by
the very men who had no other excellencies but as they were his
imitators Where he was allowed to have sentiments superior to all
others, they charged him with theft. But how did he steal? no otherwise
than like those who steal beggars' children, only to clothe them the

In this reign Dryden wrote the first Ode to St. Cecilia, for her
festival, in 1687. This and the Ode to the Memory of Mrs. Anne
Killigrew, a performance much in the manner of Cowley, and which has
been admired perhaps fully as much as it merits, were the only pieces of
general poetry which he produced between the accession of James and the
Revolution. It was, however, about this time, that the poet became
acquainted with the simple and beautiful hymns of the Catholic ritual,
the only pieces of uninspired sacred poetry which are worthy of the
purpose to which they are dedicated. It is impossible to hear the "_Dies
Iræ_;" or the "_Stabat Mater dolorosa_," without feeling, that the
stately simplicity of the language, differing almost as widely from
classical poetry as from that of modern nations, awes the congregation,
like the architecture of the Gothic cathedrals in which they are
chanted. The ornaments which are wanting to these striking effusions of
devotion, are precisely such as would diminish their grand and solemn
effect; and nothing but the cogent and irresistible propriety of
addressing the Divinity in a language understood by the whole
worshipping assembly, could have justified the discarding these
magnificent hymns from the reformed worship. We must suppose that
Dryden, as a poet, was interested in the poetical part of the religion
which he had chosen; and his translation of "_Veni, Creator Spiritus_,"
which was probably recommended to him as being the favourite hymn of St.
Francis Xavier,[22] shows that they did so. But it is less generally
known, that the English Catholics have preserved two other translations
ascribed to Dryden; one of the "_Te Deum_," the other of the hymn for
St. John's Eve; with which the public are here, for the first time,
presented, as the transcripts with which I have been favoured reached me
too late to be inserted in the poet's works.[23] I think most of my
readers will join with me in opinion, that both their beauties and
faults are such as ascertain their authenticity.


  Thee, Sovereign God, our grateful accents praise;
  We own thee Lord, and bless thy wondrous ways;
  To thee, Eternal Father, earth's whole frame
  With loudest trumpets sounds immortal fame.
  Lord God of Hosts! for thee the heavenly powers,
  With sounding anthems, fill the vaulted towers.
  Thy Cherubims thee Holy, Holy, Holy, cry;
  Thrice Holy, all the Seraphims reply,
  And thrice returning echoes endless songs supply.
  Both heaven and earth thy majesty display;
  They owe their beauty to thy glorious ray.
  Thy praises fill the loud apostles' quire:
  The train of prophets in the song conspire.
  Legions of martyrs in the chorus shine,
  And vocal blood with vocal music join.[24]
  By these thy church, inspired by heavenly art,
  Around the world maintains a second part,
  And tunes her sweetest notes, O God, to thee,
  The Father of unbounded majesty;
  The Son, adored co-partner of thy seat,
  And equal everlasting Paraclete.
  Thou King of Glory, Christ, of the Most High,
  Thou co-eternal filial Deity;
  Thou who, to save the world's impending doom,
  Vouchsafst to dwell within a virgin's womb;
  Old tyrant Death disarmed, before thee flew
  The bolts of heaven, and back the foldings drew,
  To give access, and make thy faithful way;
  From God's right hand thy filial beams display.
  Thou art to judge the living and the dead;
  Then spare those souls for whom thy veins have bled.
  O take us up amongst thy bless'd above,
  To share with them thy everlasting love.
  Preserve, O Lord! thy people, and enhance
  Thy blessing on thine own inheritance.
  For ever raise their hearts, and rule their ways,
  Each day we bless thee, and proclaim thy praise;
  No age shall fail to celebrate thy name,
  No hour neglect thy everlasting fame.
  Preserve our souls, O Lord, this day from ill;
  Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy still:
  As we have hoped, do thou reward our pain;
  We've hoped in thee--let not our hope be vain.


  (29th June.)

  O sylvan prophet! whose eternal fame
  Echoes from Judah's hills and Jordan's stream;
  The music of our numbers raise,
  And tune our voices to thy praise.

  A messenger from high Olympus came
  To bear the tidings of thy life and name,
  And told thy sire each prodigy
  That Heaven designed to work in thee.

  Hearing the news, and doubting in surprise,
  His falt'ring speech in fettered accent dies;
  But Providence, with happy choice,
  In thee restored thy father's voice.

  In the recess of Nature's dark abode,
  Though still enclosed, yet knewest thou thy God;
  Whilst each glad parent told and blessed
  The secrets of each other's breast.

A characteristic of James's administration was rigid economy, not only
in ordinary matters, but towards his own partisans;--a wretched quality
in a prince, who was attempting a great and unpopular revolution both in
religion and politics, and ought, by his liberality, and even profusion,
to have attached the hearts and excited the hopes of those fiery and
unsettled spirits, who are ever foremost in times of national tumult.
Dryden, one of his most efficient and zealous supporters, and who had
taken the step which of all others was calculated to please James,
received only, as we have seen, after the interval of nearly a year from
that prince's accession, an addition of £100 to his yearly pension.
There may, however, on occasion of "The Hind and the Panther," the
controversy with Stillingfleet, and other works undertaken with an
express view to the royal interest, have been private communications of
James's favour. But Dryden, always ready to supply with hope the
deficiency of present possession, went on his literary course rejoicing.
A lively epistle to his friend Etherege, then envoy for James at
Ratisbon, shows the lightness and buoyancy of his spirits at this
supposed auspicious period.[26]

An event, deemed of the utmost and most beneficial importance to the
family of Stuart, but which, according to their usual ill-fortune,
helped to precipitate their ruin, next called forth the public
gratulation of the poet-laureate. This was the birth of that "son of
prayers" prophesied in the dedication to Xavier, whom the English, with
obstinate incredulity, long chose to consider as an impostor, grafted
upon the royal line to the prejudice of the Protestant succession.
Dryden's "Britannia Rediviva" hailed, with the enthusiasm of a Catholic
and a poet, the very event which, removing all hope of succession in the
course of nature, precipitated the measures of the Prince of Orange,
exhausted the patience of the exasperated people, and led them violently
to extirpate a hated dynasty, which seemed likely to be protracted by a
new reign. The merits of the poem have been considered in the
introductory remarks prefixed in this edition.[27]

Whatever hopes Dryden may have conceived in consequence of "The Hind and
the Panther," "Britannia Rediviva," and other works favourable to the
cause of James and of his religion, they were suddenly and for ever
blighted by the REVOLUTION. It cannot be supposed that the poet viewed
without anxiety the crisis while yet at a distance; and perhaps his own
tale of the Swallows may have begun to bear, even to the author, the air
of a prophecy. He is said, in an obscure libel, to have been among those
courtiers who encouraged, by frequent visits, the camp on Hounslow
Heath,[28] upon which the king had grounded his hopes of subduing the
contumacy of his subjects, and repelling the invasion of the Prince of
Orange. If so, he must there have learned how unwilling the troops were
to second their monarch in his unpopular and unconstitutional attempts;
and must have sadly anticipated the event of a struggle between a king
and his whole people. When this memorable catastrophe had taken place,
our author found himself at once exposed to all the insult, calumny, and
sarcasm with which a successful party in politics never fail to
overwhelm their discomfited adversaries But, what he must have felt yet
more severely, the unpopularity of his religion and principles rendered
it not merely unsafe, but absolutely impossible, for him to make
retaliation His powers of satire, at this period, were of no more use to
Dryden than a sword to a man who cannot draw it; only serving to render
the pleasure of insulting him more poignant to his enemies, and the
necessity of passive submission more bitter to himself. Of the numerous
satires, libels, songs, parodies, and pasquinades, which solemnised the
downfall of Popery and of James, Dryden had not only some exclusively
dedicated to his case, but engaged a portion, more or less, of almost
every one which appeared. Scarce Father Petre, or the Papal envoy Adda,
themselves, were more distinguished, by these lampoons, than the
poet-laureate; the unsparing exertion of whose satirical powers, as well
as his unrivalled literary pre-eminence, had excited a strong party
against him among the inferior wits, whose political antipathy was
aggravated by ancient resentment and literary envy. An extract from one
of each kind may serve to show how very little wit was judged necessary
by Dryden's contemporaries to a successful attack upon him.[29]  Nor was
the "pelting of this pitiless storm" of abusive raillery the worst evil
to which our author was subjected. The religion which he professed
rendered him incapable of holding any office under the new government,
even if he could have bended his political principles to take the oaths
to William and Mary. We may easily believe that Dryden's old friend
Dorset, now lord high-chamberlain, felt repugnance to vacate the places
of poet-laureate and royal historiographer by removing the man in
England most capable of filling them; but the sacrifice was inevitable.
Dryden's own feelings, on losing the situation of poet-laureate, must
have been greatly aggravated by the selection of his despised opponent
Shadwell as his successor; a scribbler whom, in "Mac-Flecknoe," he had
himself placed pre-eminent in the regions of dulness, being now, so far
as royal mandate can arrange such precedence, raised in his stead as
chief among English poets. This very remarkable coincidence has led
several of Dryden's biographers, and Dr. Johnson among others, to
suppose, that the satire was actually written to ridicule Shadwell's
elevation to the honours of the laurel; though nothing is more certain
than that it was published while Dryden was himself laureate, and could
be hardly supposed to anticipate the object of his satire becoming his
successor. Shadwell, however, possessed merits with King William, which
were probably deemed by that prince of more importance than all the
genius of Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden if it could have been combined
in one individual. He was a staunch Whig, and had suffered under the
former government, being "silenced as a non-conforming poet;" the doors
of the theatre closed against his plays; and, if he may himself be
believed, even his life endangered, not only by the slow process of
starving, but some more active proceeding of his powerful enemies.[30]
Shadwell, moreover, had not failed to hail the dawn of the Revolution by
a congratulatory poem to the Prince of Orange, and to gratulate its
completion by another inscribed to Queen Mary on her arrival. In every
point of view, his principles, fidelity, and alacrity, claimed William's
countenance; he was presented to him by Dorset, not as the best poet,
but as the most honest man, politically speaking, among the
competitors;[31] and accordingly succeeded to Dryden's situation as
poet-laureate and royal historiographer, with the appointment of £300 a
year. Shadwell, as might have been expected, triumphed in his success
over his great antagonist; but his triumph was expressed in strains
which showed he was totally unworthy of it.[32]

Dryden, deprived by the Revolution of present possession and future
hope, was now reduced to the same, or a worse situation, than he had
occupied in the year of the Restoration, his income resting almost
entirely upon his literary exertions, his expenses increased by the
necessity of providing and educating his family, and the advantage of
his high reputation perhaps more than counterbalanced by the popular
prejudice against his religion and party. So situated, he patiently and
prudently bent to the storm which he could not resist; and though he
might privately circulate a few light pieces in favour of the exiled
family, as the "Lady's Song,"[33] and the translation of Pitcairn's
beautiful Epitaph[34] on the Viscount of Dundee, it seems certain that
he made no formal attack on the government either in verse or prose.
Those who imputed to him the satires on the Revolution, called "_Suum
Cuique_," and "Tarquin and Tullia," did injustice both to his prudence
and his poetry. The last, and probably both satires, were written by
Mainwaring, who lived to be sorry for what he had done.

The theatre again became Dryden's immediate resource. Indeed, the very
first play Queen Mary attended was one of our poet's, which had been
prohibited during the reign of James II. But the revival of the "Spanish
Friar" could afford but little gratification to the author, whose
newly-adopted religion is so severely satirised in the person of Father
Dominic. Nor was this ill-fated representation doomed to afford more
pleasure to the personage by whom it was appointed. For the audience
applied the numerous passages, concerning the deposing the old king and
planting a female usurper on the throne, to the memorable change which
had just taken place; and all eyes were fixed upon Queen Mary, with an
expression which threw her into extreme confusion.[35]

Dryden, after the Revolution, began to lay the foundation for a new
structure of fame and popularity in the tragedy of "Don Sebastian." This
tragedy, which has been justly regarded as the _chef-d'oeuvre_ of his
plays, was not, he has informed us, "huddled up in haste." The author
knew the circumstances in which he stood, while, as he expresses it, his
ungenerous enemies were taking advantage of the times to ruin his
reputation; and was conscious, that the full exertion of his genius was
necessary to secure a favourable reception from an audience prepossessed
against him and his tenets. Nor did he neglect to smooth the way, by
inscribing the piece to the Earl of Leicester, brother of Algernon
Sidney, who had borne arms against Charles in the civil war; and yet,
Whig or republican as he was, had taste and feeling enough to patronise
the degraded laureate and proscribed Catholic. The dedication turns upon
the philosophical and moderate use of political victory, the liberality
of considering the friend rather than the cause, the dignity of
forgiving and relieving the fallen adversary; themes, upon which the
eloquence of the suffering party is usually unbounded although sometimes
forgotten when they come again into power. With all this deprecatory
reasoning, Dryden does not recede, or hint at receding, one inch from
his principles, but concludes his preface with a resolution to adopt the
counsel of the classic:

  "_Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito._"

The merits of this beautiful tragedy I have attempted to analyse in
another place,[36] and at considerable length. It was brought forward in
1690 with great theatrical pomp.[37] But with all these advantages, the
first reception of "Don Sebastian" was but cool; nor was it until
several retrenchments and alterations had been made, that it rose to the
high pitch in public favour which it maintained for many years, and
deserved to maintain for ever.

In the same year, "Amphitryon," in which Dryden displays his comic
powers to more advantage than anywhere, excepting in the "Spanish
Friar," was acted with great applause, calling forth the gratulations
even of Milbourne, who afterwards made so violent an attack upon the
translation of Virgil. The comedy was inscribed to Sir William Leveson
Gower, whose name, well known in the history of the Revolution, may be
supposed to have been invoked as a talisman against misconstructions, to
which Dryden's situation so peculiarly exposed him, and to which he
plainly alludes in the prologue.[38] Our author's choice of this patron
was probably dictated by Sir William Gower's connection with the Earl of
Rochester, whose grand-daughter he had married.

Encouraged by the revival of his popularity, Dryden now ventured to
bring forward the opera of "King Arthur," originally designed as an
entertainment to Charles II; "Albion and Albanius" being written as a
sort of introductory masque upon the occasion.[39] When we consider the
strong and even violent political tendency of that prefatory piece, we
may readily suppose, that the opera was originally written in a strain
very different from the present; and that much must have been softened,
altered, and erased, ere a play, designed to gratulate the discovery of
the Rye-house Plot, could, without hazard, be acted after the
Revolution. The odious, though necessary, task of defacing his own
labours, was sufficiently disgusting to the poet, who complains, that
"not to offend the present times, nor a government which has hitherto
protected me, I have been obliged so much to alter the first design, and
take away so many beauties from the writing, that it is now no more what
it was formerly, than the present ship of the Royal Sovereign, after so
often taking down and altering is the vessel it was at the first
building." Persevering in the prudent system of seeking patrons among
those whose patronage was rendered effectual by their influence with the
prevailing party, Dryden prefixed to "King Arthur" a beautiful
dedication to the Marquis of Halifax, to whose cautious and nice policy
he ascribes the nation's escape from the horrors of civil war, which
seemed impending in the latter years of Charles II; and he has not
failed, at the same time, to pay a passing tribute to the merits of his
original and good-humoured master. The music of "King Arthur" being
composed by Purcel, gave Dryden occasion to make that eminent musician
some well-deserved compliments which were probably designed as a
peace-offering for the injudicious preference given to Grabut in the
introduction to "Albion and Albanius."[40] The dances were composed by
Priest; and the whole piece was eminently successful. Its good fortune,
however, was imputed, by the envious, to a lively song in the last
act,[41] which had little or nothing to do with the business of the
piece. In this opera ended all the hopes which the world might entertain
of an epic poem from Dryden on the subject of King Arthur.

Our author was by no means so fortunate in "Cleomenes," his next
dramatic effort. The times were something changed since the Revolution
The Tories, who had originally contributed greatly to that event, had
repented them of abandoning the Stuart family, and, one after another,
were returning to their attachment to James. It is probable that this
gave new courage to Dryden, who although upon the accession of King
William he saw himself a member of an odious and proscribed sect, now
belonged to a broad political faction, which a variety of events was
daily increasing. Hence his former caution was diminished, and the
suspicion of his enemies increased in proportion. The choice of the
subject, the history of a Spartan prince exiled from his kingdom, and
waiting the assistance of a foreign monarch to regain it, corresponded
too nearly with that of the unfortunate James. The scene of a popular
insurrection, where the minds of a whole people were inflamed, was
liable to misinterpretation. In short, the whole story of the Spartan
Cleomenes was capable of being wrested to political and Jacobitic
purposes; and there wanted not many to aver, that to such purposes it
had been actually applied by Dryden. Neither was the state of our author
such at the time as to permit his pleading his own cause. The completion
of the piece having been interrupted by indisposition, was devolved upon
his friend Southerne, who revised and concluded the last act. The whispers
of the author's enemies in the meantime procured a prohibition, at least
a suspension, of the representation of "Cleomenes" from the lord
chamberlain. The exertions of Hyde, Earl of Rochester, who, although a
Tory, was possessed necessarily of some influence as maternal uncle to
the queen, procured a recall of this award against a play which was in
every respect truly inoffensive. But there was still a more insuperable
obstacle to its success. The plot is flat and unsatisfactory involving
no great event, and in truth being only the question, whether Cleomenes
should or should not depart upon an expedition, which appears far more
hazardous than remaining where he was. The grave and stoical character
of the hero is more suitable to the French than the English stage; nor
had the general conduct of the play that interest, or perhaps bustle,
which is necessary to fix the attention of the promiscuous audience of
London. In a theatre, where every man may, if he will, express his
dissatisfaction, in defiance of _beaux-esprits, nobles_, or
_mousquetaires_, that which is dull will seldom be long fashionable:
"Cleomenes" was accordingly coldly received. Dryden published it with a
dedication to Lord Rochester, and the Life of Cleomenes prefixed, as
translated from Plutarch by Creech, that it might appear how false those
reports were, which imputed to him the composing a Jacobite play.

Omitting, for the present, Dryden's intermediate employments, I hasten
to close his dramatic career, by mentioning, that "Love Triumphant," his
last play, was acted in 1692 with very bad success. Those who look over
this piece, which is in truth one of the worst our author ever wrote,
can be at no loss to discover sufficient reason for its condemnation.
The comic part approaches to farce, and the tragic unites the wild and
unnatural changes and counter-changes of the Spanish tragedy, with the
involutions of unnatural and incestuous passion, which the British
audience has been always averse to admit as a legitimate subject of
dramatic pity or terror. But it cannot be supposed that Dryden received
the failure with anything like an admission of its justice. He was a
veteran foiled in the last of his theatrical trials of skill, and
retreated forever from the stage, with expressions which transferred the
blame from himself to his judges; for, in the dedication to James, the
fourth Earl of Salisbury, a relation of Lady Elizabeth, and connected
with the poet by a similarity of religious and political opinions, he
declares, that the characters of the persons in the drama are truly
drawn, the fable not injudiciously contrived, the changes of fortune not
unartfully managed, and the catastrophe happily introduced: thus
leaving, were the author's opinion to be admitted as decisive, no
grounds upon which the critics could ground their opposition. The
enemies of Dryden, as usual, triumphed greatly in the fall of this
piece;[42] and thus the dramatic career of Dryden began and closed with
bad success.

This Section cannot be more properly concluded than with the list[43]
which Mr. Malone has drawn out of Dryden's plays, with the respective
dates of their being acted and published; which is a correction and
enlargement of that subjoined by the author himself to the opera of
"Prince Arthur." Henceforward we are to consider Dryden as unconnected
with the stage.

PLAYS.                       Acted by        Entered at       Published
                                             Stationers'        in

 1.  THE WILD GALLANT. C.     The King's       Aug. 7, 1667.     1669.

 2.  THE RIVAL LADIES. T.C.       K.S.         June 27, 1661.    1664.

 3.  THE INDIAN EMPEROR. T.       K.S.         May 26, 1665.     1667.

 4.  SECRET LOVE, OR              K.S.         Aug. 7, 1667.     1668.

 5.  SIR MARTIN MAR-ALL. C.      The Duke       June 24, 1668.   1668.
                                of York's

 6.  THE TEMPEST. C.              D.S.         Jan. 8, 1669-70.  1670.

 7.  AN EVENING'S LOVE, OR        K.S.         Nov. 20, 1668.    Q also
     THE MOCK ASTROLOGER. C.                                     1668.

 8.  TYRANNIC LOVE, OR            K.S.         July 14, 1669     1670.

 9.} THE CONQUEST OF              K.S.         Feb. 20, 1670-1   1672.

11.  MARRIAGE A-LA-MODE. C.       K.S.         Mar. 18, 1672-3.  1673.

12.  THE ASSIGNATION OR,          K.S.         Mar. 18, 1672-3.  1673.

13.  AMBOYNA. T.                  K.S.         June 26, 1673.    1673.

14. The State of Innocence. O.                 April 17, 1674.   1674.

15. Aureng-Zebe  T.               K.S.         Nov. 29, 1675.    1676.

16. All For Love. T.              K.S.         Jan. 31, 1677-8.  1678.

17. The Kind Keeper, or
            Mr. Limberham.  C.    D.S.         ................  1678.

18. Oedipus. T.                   D.S.         ................  1679.

19. Troilus and Cressida. T.      D.S.         April 11, 1679.   1679.

20. The Spanish Friar. T.C.       D.S.         ................  1681.

21. The Duke of Guise. T.         The United   ................  1683.

22. Albion and Albanius. O.       U.C.         ................  1685.

23. Don Sebastian. T.             U.C.         ................  1690.

24. Amphitryon. C.                U.C.         ................  1690.

25. King Arthur. O.               U.C.         ................  1691.

26. Cleomenes. T.                 U.C.         ................  1692.

27. Love Triumphant. T.C.         U.C.         ................  1694.


[1] It formed the machine on which Iris appeared (vol. vii.). I have
been favoured by Samuel Egerton Brydges, Esq., with the following
"Extract from the Journal of Captain Christopher Gunman, commander of
his Royal Highness's yacht the Mary, lying in Calais pier, Tuesday, 18th


  "March 18th. It was variable cloudy weather: this morning about seven
  o'clock saw in the firmament three suns, with two demi-rainbows; and
  all within one whole rainbow, in form and shape as here pourtrayed:


  The sun towards the left hand bore east, and that on the right hand
  bore south-east of me. I did sit and draw it as well as the time and
  place would permit me; for it was seen in its full form about the
  space of half an hour; but part of the rainbow did see above two
  hours. It appeared first at three-quarters past six, and was
  over-clouded at a quarter past seven. The wind north-by-west."

Mr. Gunman, the descendant of the captain, has lately had a picture on
the subject painted by Serres, the marine painter; which makes an
interesting history-piece. It represents the phenomenon in the heavens--
the harbour of Calais--and the yacht lying off it, etc. etc.

[2] This tradition is thus critically examined, and proved by Mr.

"From a letter written by King James to the Prince of Orange, June 15,
1685, it appears, that though the Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme, in
Dorsetshire, on Thursday evening, June 11th, an account of his landing
did not reach the King at Whitehall till _Saturday_ morning the 13th.
The House of Commons, having met on that day at the usual hour, between
nine and ten o'clock, the news was soon afterwards communicated to them
by a Message from the King, delivered by the Earl of Middleton (to whom
Etheredge afterwards wrote two poetical Epistles from Ratisbon). Having
voted and drawn up an Address to his Majesty, desiring him to take care
of his royal person, they adjourned to _four o'clock_; in which interval
they went to Whitehall, presented their Address, and then met again.
_Com. Jour._ vol. ix. p. 735. About this time, therefore, it may be
presumed, the news transpired, and in an hour afterwards probably
reached the Theatre, where an audience was assembled at the
representation of the opera of 'Albion and Albanius;' for pays at that
time began at four o'clock. It seems from Mr. Luttrell's MS. note, that
the first representation of this opera was on Saturday the 6th of June;
and Downes (_Roscius Ang._ p. 40) says, that in consequence of
Monmouth's invasion, it was only performed _six_ times; so that the
sixth representation was, without doubt, on Saturday, the 13th of June.
An examination of dates is generally fatal to tales of this kind: here,
however, they certainly support the tradition mentioned in the text."--
_Life of Dryden_, page 188.

[3] The expressions in the dedication are such as to preclude all idea
but of profound respect: "Sir, The value I have ever had for your
writings, makes me impatient to peruse all treatises that are crowned
with your name; whereof, the last that fell into my hands was your
'_Religio Laici_;' which expresses as well your great judgment in, as
value for, religion: a thing too rarely found in this age among
gentlemen of your parts; and, I am confident (with the blessing of God
upon your endeavours), not unlikely to prove of great advantage to the
public; since, as Mr. Herbert well observes,

  "A verse may find him who a sermon flies,
  And turn delight into a sacrifice."

[4] Blount preserves indeed that affectation of respect for the
doctrines of the established church which decency imposes; but the
tendency of his work is to decry all revelation. It is founded on the
noted work of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, "_De Veritate_."

[5] "I was unable to resist the weight of historical evidence, that
within the same period most of the loading doctrines of Popery were
already introduced in theory and practice; nor was my conclusion absurd,
that miracles are the test of truth, and that the Church must be
orthodox and pure, which was so often approved by the visible
interposition of the Deity. The marvellous tales which are so boldly
attested by the Basils and Chrysostoms, the Austins and Jeroms,
compelled me to embrace the superior merits of celibacy, the institution
of the monastic life, the use of the sign of the cross, of holy oil, and
even of images, the invocation of saints, the worship of relics, the
rudiments of purgatory in prayers for the dead, and the tremendous
mystery of the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ, which
insensibly swelled into the prodigy of transubstantiation. In these
dispositions, and already more than half a convert, I formed an unlucky
intimacy with a young gentleman of our college, whose name I shall
spare. With a character less resolute, Mr. ---- had imbibed the same
religious opinions; and some Popish books, I know not through what
channel, were conveyed into his possession. I read, I applauded, I
believed; the English translations of two famous works of Bossuet,
Bishop of Meaux, the 'Exposition of the Catholic Doctrine,' and the
'History of the Protestant Variations,' achieved my conversion; and I
surely fell by a noble hand. I have since examined the originals with a
more discerning eye, and shall not hesitate to pronounce, that Bossuet
is indeed a master of all the weapons of controversy. In the
'Exposition,' a specious apology, the orator assumes, with consummate
art, the tone of candour and simplicity; and the ten-horned monster is
transformed, at his magic touch, into the milk-white Hind, who must be
loved as soon as she is seen. In the 'History,' a bold and well-aimed
attack, he displays, with a happy mixture of narrative and argument, the
faults and follies, the changes and contradictions of our first
reformers: whose variations (as he dexterously contends) are the mark of
historical error, while the perpetual unity of the Catholic Church is
the sign and test of infallible truth. To my present feelings, it seems
incredible, that I should ever believe that I believed in
transubstantiation. But my conqueror oppressed me with the sacramental
words, '_Hoc est corpus meum_,' and dashed against each other the
figurative half-meanings of the Protestant sects; every objection was
resolved into omnipotence; and, after repeating at St. Mary's the
Athanasian creed, I humbly acquiesced in the mystery of the real

  "To take up half on trust, and half to try,
  Name it not faith, but bungling bigotry,
  Both knave and fool, the merchant we may call,
  To pay great sums, and to compound the small;
  For who would break with heaven, and would not break for all?"
                  GIBBON'S _Memoirs of his own Life_.

[6] In a libel in the "State Poems," vol. iii., Dryden is made to say,

  "One son turned me, I turned the other two,
  But had not an indulgence, sir, like you"--Page 244

[7] Vol. xviii.

[8] [Grounds have already been shown for thinking that Scott is mistaken
here. I owe it to an accomplished critic of my former work in the
_Saturday Review_ to take more notice than I did in that work of
Evelyn's entry in his diary, January 19, 1686. "Dryden, the famous
play-writer and his two sons, and Mrs. Nelly, miss to the late king,
were said to go to mass. Such proselytes are no great loss to the
Church." I need only say, first, that it is obviously a mere rumour;
secondly, that it is known to be false as to Nell Gwynne, who abode in
that purity of the Protestant faith which had already differentiated her
from others of Charles's favourites. As Evelyn's anonymous informer was
wrong in one part of his evidence, the error vitiates the other. It may
perhaps be noted here that Scott's positive assertion that Lady
Elizabeth had been converted before her husband is based only on a
supposition of Malone's.--ED.]

[9] The grant bears this honourable consideration, which I extract from
Mr. Malone's work: "Pat. 2. Jac. p. 4. n. 1. Know ye, that we, for and
in consideration of the many good and acceptable services done by John
Dryden, Master of Arts, to our late dearest brother King Charles the
Second, as also to us done and performed, and taking notice of the
learning and eminent abilities of the said J.D." etc.

[10] "Absalom and Achitophel," Part i. vol. ix.

[11] I am indebted for this anecdote to Mr. Octavius Gilchrist, the
editor of the poems of the witty Bishop Corbet. [No solid foundation for
this tradition is known, though there is a certain circumstantial
verisimilitude about it. Rushton was and is in the midst of forest
scenery such as the poem describes, and it had been the seat of the
persecuted Roman Catholic family of Tresham, some of whose buildings,
covered with emblems of their faith, survive to this day. Here perhaps
maybe mentioned another of the few local traditions respecting Dryden,
one too which has, I think, escaped mention as a rule hitherto. It was
brought to my notice by my friends Mrs. Hubbard and Dr. Sebastian Evans
that there is a "Dryden's Walk" at Croxall near Lichfield. I consulted
guide-books and county histories in vain. But Lysons' "Magna Britannia"
informed me that Croxall passed from the Curzons to the Sackvilles early
in the seventeenth century, that the family occasionally lived there,
and that Dryden is traditionally said to have visited Dorset there.
Croxall is now a station on the Midland Railway between Burton and

[12] See a long note upon this subject, vol. x.

[13] That Prior was discontented with his share of preferment, appears
from the verses entitled, "Earl Robert's Mice," and an angry
expostulation elsewhere:

  "My friend Charles Montague's preferred;
  Nor would I have it long observed,
  That one mouse eats while t'other's starved.'

There is a popular tradition, but no farther to be relied on than as
showing the importance attached to the "Town and Country Mouse," which
says, that Dorset, in presenting Montague to King William, said, "I have
brought a _Mouse_ to wait on your Majesty." "I will make a man of him,"
said the king; and settled a pension of £500 upon the fortunate

[14] The passage, as quoted at length by Mr. Malone, removes an
obscurity which puzzled former biographers, at least as far as anything
can be made clear, which must ultimately depend upon such clumsy diction
as the following. "It (the answer of Burnet) will perhaps be a little
longer a digesting to Mons. Varillas, than it was a preparing to me. One
proof will quickly appear, whether the world is so satisfied with his
Answer, as upon that to return to any thoughts of his history; for I
have been informed from England, that a gentleman, who is known both for
poetry and other things, had spent three months in translating M.
Varillas's History; but that, as soon as my Reflections appeared, he
discontinued his labour, finding the credit of his author was gone. Now,
if he thinks it is recovered by his answer, he will perhaps go on with
his translation; and this may be, for aught I know, as good an
entertainment for him as the conversation that he had set on between the
Hinds and Panthers, and all the rest of animals, for whom M. Varillas
may serve well enough for an author: and this history and that poem are
such extraordinary things of their kind, that it will be but suitable to
see the author of the worst poem, become likewise the translator of the
worst history, that the age has produced. If his grace and his wit
improve both proportionably, he will hardly find that he has gained much
by the change he has made, from having no religion to choose one of the
worst. It is true, he had something to sink from, in matter of wit; but
as for his morals, it is scarce possible for him to grow a worse man
than he was. He has lately wreaked his malice on me for spoiling his
three months' labour; but in it he has done me all the honour that any
man can receive from him, which is to be railed at by him. If I had
ill-nature enough to prompt me to wish a very bad wish for him, it
should be, that he would go on and finish his translation. By that it
will appear, whether the English nation, which is the most competent
judge in this matter, has, upon the seeing our debate, pronounced in M.
Varillas's favour or in mine. It is true, Mr. D. will suffer a little by
it; but at least it will serve to keep him in from other extravagancies;
and if he gains little honour by this work, yet he cannot lose so much
by it, as he has done by his last employment."

[15] In the "Staple of News," act iii. scene 2, Jonson talks of the
miracles done by the Jesuits in Japan and China, as current articles of

[16] In the Dedication to the Queen, this is stated with a gravity
suitable to the occasion. "The reverend author of this Life, in his
dedication to his Most Christian Majesty, affirms, that France was owing
for him to the intercession of St. Francis Xavier. That Anne of Austria,
his mother, after twenty years of barrenness, had recourse to heaven, by
her fervent prayers, to draw down that blessing, and addressed her
devotions, in a particular manner, to this holy apostle of the Indies. I
know not, madam, whether I may presume to tell the world, that your
Majesty has chosen this great saint for one of your celestial patrons,
though I am sure you will never be ashamed of owning so glorious an
intercessor; not even in a country where the doctrine of the holy church
is questioned, and those religious addresses ridiculed. Your Majesty, I
doubt not, has the inward satisfaction of knowing, that such pious
prayers have not been unprofitable to you; and the nation may one day
come to understand, how happy it will be for them to have a son of
prayers ruling over them."

[17] Vol. xvi.

[18] _Ibid_.

[19] _Ibid_.

[20] _Ibid_.

[21] "In the Bodleian Catalogue another work is attributed to our
author, on very slight grounds: 'An Exposition of the Doctrine of the
Catholic Church,' translated from Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux, and
published at London in 1685. The only authority for attributing this
translation to Dryden, should seem to have been the following note in
Bishop Barlow's handwriting, at the bottom of the title-page of the copy
belonging to the Bodleian Library:

"'By Mr. Dryden, then only a poet, now a papist too: may be, he was a
papist before, but not known till of late.'

"This book had belonged to Bishop Barlow, who died in 1691."--MALONE.

[22] "Before the beginning of every canonical hour, he always said the
hymn of '_Veni, Creator Spiritus_;' and it was observed that while he
said it, his countenance was enlightened, as if the Holy Ghost, whom he
invoked, was visibly descended on him."--Vol. xvi.

[23][I have received a valuable communication as to Dryden's Hymns,
which will be noticed in its proper place.--ED.]

[24] This line alone speaks Dryden in every syllable.

[25] I subjoin the original hymn, which is supposed to have been
composed by Lactantius.

  _Ut queant, laxis resonare fibris,
  Mira gestorum, famuli, tuorum,
  Solve polluti labii meatum,
        Sancte Joannes_!

  _Nunciens, celso veniens Olympo,
  Te, Patri, magnum fore nasciturum,
  Nomen, et vitæ seriem gerendæ,
        Ordine promit_.

  _Ille promissi dubius superni,
  Perdidit promptæ modulos loquelæ;
  Sed reformasti gemitus peremptæ
        Organa vocis_.

  _Ventris abstruso recubans cubili,
  Senseras regem, thalamo manentem;
  Hinc Parens nati meritis uterque
        Abdita pandit_.

[26] [Some matter concerning Dryden and Etherege will find, perhaps,
most appropriate place in commenting on this Poem, vol. xi.--ED.]

[27] Vol. x.

  "Here duly swarm prodigious wights,
  And strange variety of sights,
  As ladies lewd, and foppish knights,
  Priests, poets, pimps, and parasites;
  Which now we'll spare, and only mention
  The hungry bard that writes for pension;
  Old Squib (who's sometimes here, I'm told),
  That oft has with his prince made bold,
  Called the late king a saunt'ring cully,
  To magnify the Gallic bully,
  Who lately put a senseless banter
  Upon the world, with Hind and Panther,
  Making the beasts and birds o'the wood
  Doubt, what he ne'er understood,
  Deep secrets in philosophy,
  And mysteries in theology,
  All sung in wretched poetry;
  Which rumbling piece is as much farce all,
  As his true mirror, the "Rehearsal;"
  For which he has been soundly banged,
  But ha'n't his just reward till hanged."
_Poem on the Camp at Hounslow_.

[29] Extracts from "The Address of John Dryden, Laureat, to his Highness
the Prince of Orange:"

  "In all the hosannas our whole world's applause,
  Illustrious champion of our church and laws!
  Accept, great Nassau! from unworthy me,
  Amongst the adoring crowd, a bonded knee;
  Nor scruple, sir, to hear my echoing lyre,
  Strung, tuned, and joined to the universal choir;
  From my suspected mouth thy glories told,
  A known out-lyer from the English fold."

After renewing the old reproach about Cromwell:

  "If thus all this I could unblushing write,
  Fear not that pen that shall thy praise indite,
  When high-born blood my adoration draws,
  Exalted glory and unblemished cause;
  A theme so all divine my muse shall wing,
  What is't for thee, great prince, I will not sing?
  No bounds shall stop my Pegasean flight,
  I'll spot my Hind, and make my Panther white.
         *       *       *       *       *
  But if, great prince, my feeble strength shall fail,
  Thy theme I'll to my successors entail;
  My heirs the unfinished subject shall complete:
  I have a son, and he, by all that's great,
  That very son (and trust my oaths, I swore
  As much to my great master James before)
  Shall, by his sire's example, Rome renounce,
  For he, young stripling, has turned but once;
  That Oxford nursling, that sweet hopeful boy,
  His father's and that once Ignatian joy,
  Designed for a new Bellarmin Goliah,
  Under the great Gamaliel, Obadiah!
  This youth, great sir, shall your fame's trumpets blow,
  And soar when my dull wings shall flag below.
         *       *       *       *       *
  Why should I blush to turn, when my defence
  And plea's so plain?--for if Omnipotence
  Be the highest attribute that heaven can boast,
  That's the truest church that heaven resembles most.
  The tables then are turned: and 'tis confest,
  The strongest and the mightiest is the best:
  In all my changes I'm on the right side,
  And by the same great reason justified.
  When the bold Crescent late attacked the Cross,
  Resolved the empire of the world to engross,
  Had tottering Vienna's walls but failed,
  And Turkey over Christendom prevailed,
  Long ere this I had crossed the Dardanello,
  And reigned the mighty Mahomet's hail fellow;
  Quitting my duller hopes, the poor renown
  Of Eton College, or a Dublin gown,
  And commenced graduate in the grand divan,
  Had reigned a more immortal Mussulman."

The lines which follow are taken from "The Deliverance," a poem to the
Prince of Orange, by a Person of Quality. 9th February, 1688-9.

  "Alas! how cruel is a poet's fate!
  Or who indeed would be a laureate,
  That must or fall or turn with every change of state?
  Poor bard! if thy hot zeal for loyal Wem[29a]
  Forbids thy tacking, sing his requiem;
  Sing something, prithee, to ensure thy thumb;
  Nothing but conscience strikes a poet dumb.
  Conscience, that dull chimera of the schools,
  A learned imposition upon fools,
  Thou, Dryden, art not silenced with such stuff,
  Egad thy conscience has been large enough.
  But here are loyal subjects still, and foes,
  Many to mourn, for many to oppose.
  Shall thy great master, thy almighty Jove,
  Whom thou to place above the gods bust strove,
  Shall be from David's throne so early fall,
  And laureate Dryden not one tear let fall;
  Nor sings the bard his exit in one poor pastoral?
  Thee fear confines, thee, Dryden, fear confines,
  And grief, not shame, stops thy recanting lines.
  Our Damon is as generous as great,
  And well could pardon tears that love create,
  Shouldst thou, in justice to thy vexed soul,
  Not sing to him but thy lost lord condole.
  But silence is a damning error, John;
  I'd or my master or myself bemoan."
[29a] _Lord Jeffries, Baron of Wem._

[30] In the dedication of "Bury-Fair" to his patron the Earl of Dorset,
he claims the merit due to his political constancy and sufferings: "I
never could recant in the worst of times, when my ruin was designed, and
my life was sought, and for near ten years I was kept from the exercise
of that profession which had afforded me a competent subsistence; and
surely I shall not now do it, when there is a liberty of speaking common
sense, which, though not long since forbidden, is now grown current."

[31] See Cibber or Shiels's Life of Shadwell.

  "These wretched poëtitos, who got praise
  For writing most confounded loyal plays,
  With viler, coarser jests than at Bear-garden,
  And silly Grub-street songs worse than Tom-farthing.
  If any noble patriot did excel,
  His own and country's rights defending well,
  These yelping curs were straight loo'd on to bark,
  On the deserving man to set a mark.
  These abject, fawning parasites and knaves,
  Since they were such, would have all others slaves.
  'Twas precious loyalty that was thought fit
  To atone for want of honesty and wit.
  No wonder common-sense was all cried down,
  And noise and nonsense swaggered through the town.
  Our author, then opprest, would have you know it,
  Was silenced for a nonconformist poet;
  In those hard times he bore the utmost test,
  And now he swears he's loyal as the best.
  Now, sirs, since common-sense has won the day,
  Be kind to this, as to his last year's play.
  His friends stood firmly to him when distressed;
  He hopes the number is not now decreased.
  He found esteem from those he valued most;
  Proud of his friends, he of his foes could boast."

_Prologue to Bury-Fair._

[33] Vol. xi.

[34] _Ibid_.

[35] Introduct. to "Spanish Friar," vol. vi.

[36] Vol. vii.

[37] "A play well-dressed, you know, is half in half, as a great writer
says. The Morocco dresses when new, formerly for 'Sebastian,' they say,
enlivened the play as much as the 'pudding and dumpling' song did
Merlin."--_The Female Wits_, a comedy by Mountfort.

  "The labouring bee, when his sharp sting is gone,
  Forgets his golden work, and turns a drone:
  Such is a satire, when you take away
  That rage, in which his noble vigour lay.
  What gain you by not suffering him to tease ye?
  He neither can offend you now, nor please ye.
  The honey-bag and venom lay so near,
  That both together you resolved to tear;
  And lost your pleasure to secure your fear.
  How can he show his manhood, if you bind him
  To box, like boys, with one hand tied behind him?
  This is plain levelling of wit; in which
  The poor has all the advantage, not the rich.
  The blockhead stands excused, for wanting sense;
  And wits turn blockheads in their own defence."

[39] [Transcriber's note: "See page 251" in original. This approximates
to paragraphs preceding reference [1] in text, Section VI.]

[40] [Transcriber's note: "See page 253" in original. This approximates
to paragraphs preceding reference [2] in text, Section VI.]

[41] [Transcriber's note: "See a preceding note, p. 300" in original.
This note is Footnote 37 above.]

[42] For example, in a Session of the Poets, under the fictitious name
of Matthew Coppinger, Dryden is thus irreverently introduced:

  "A reverend grisly elder first appeared,
  With solemn pace through the divided herd;
  Apollo, laughing at his clumsy mien,
  Pronounced him straight the poets' alderman.
  His labouring muse did many years excel
  In ill inventing, and translating well,
  Till 'Love Triumphant' did the cheat reveal.
         *       *       *       *       *
  So when appears, midst sprightly births, a sot,
  Whatever was the other offspring's lot,
  This we are sure was lawfully begot."

[43] [This list requires a certain amount of correction and completion.
In the Appendix to the present edition (vol. xviii.) a separate article
will be given to it.--ED.]


_State of Dryden's Connections in Society after the Revolution--Juvenal
and Persius--Smaller Pieces--Eleonora--Third Miscellany--Virgil--Ode to
St. Cecilia--Dispute with Milbourne--With Blackmore--Fables--The
Author's Death and Funeral--His private Character--Notices of his

The evil consequences of the Revolution upon Dryden's character and
fortunes began to abate sensibly within a year or two after that event.
It is well known, that King William's popularity was as short-lived as
it had been universal. All parties gradually drew off from the king,
under their ancient standards. The clergy returned to their maxims of
hereditary right, the Tories to their attachment to the house of Stuart,
the Whigs to their jealousy of the royal authority. Dryden, we have
already observed, so lately left in a small and detested party, was now
among multitudes who, from whatever contradictory motives, were joined
in opposition to the government and some of his kinsmen; particularly
with John Driden of Chesterton, his first cousin; with whom, till his
death, he lived upon terms of uninterrupted friendship. The influence of
Clarendon and Rochester, the Queen's uncles, were, we have seen, often
exerted in the poet's favour; and through them, he became connected with
the powerful families with which they were allied. Dorset, by whom he
had been deprived of his office, seems to have softened this harsh,
though indispensable, exertion of authority, by a liberal present; and
to his bounty Dryden had frequently recourse in cases of emergency.[1]
Indeed, upon one occasion it is said to have been administered in a mode
savouring more of ostentation than delicacy; for there is a tradition
that Dryden and Tom Brown, being invited to dine with the lord
chamberlain, found under their covers, the one a bank-note for £100, the
other for £50. I have already noticed, that these pecuniary benefactions
were not held so degrading in that age as at present; and, probably,
many of Dryden's opulent and noble friends, took, like Dorset,
occasional opportunities of supplying wants, which neither royal
munificence, nor the favour of the public, now enabled the poet fully to
provide for.

If Dryden's critical empire over literature was at any time interrupted
by the mischances of his political party, it was in _abeyance_ for a
very short period; since, soon after the Revolution, he appears to have
regained, and maintained till his death, that sort of authority in
Will's coffeehouse, to which we have frequently had occasion to allude.
His supremacy, indeed, seems to have been so effectually established,
that a "pinch out of Dryden's snuff-box"[2] was equal to taking a degree
in that academy of wit. Among those by whom it was frequented, Southerne
and Congreve were principally distinguished by Dryden's friendship. His
intimacy with the former, though oddly commenced, seems soon to have
ripened into such sincere friendship, that the aged poet selected
Southerne to finish "Cleomenes," and addressed to him an epistle of
condolence on the failure of "The Wives' Excuse," which, as he
delicately expresses it, "was with a kind civility dismissed" from the
scene. This was indeed an occasion in which even Dryden could tell, from
experience, how much the sympathy of friends was necessary to soothe the
injured feelings of an author. But Congreve seems to have gained yet
further than Southerne upon Dryden's friendship. He was introduced to
him by his first play, the celebrated "Old Bachelor," being put into the
poet's hands to be revised. Dryden, after making a few alterations to
fit it for the stage, returned it to the author with the high and just
commendation that it was the best first play he had ever seen. In truth,
it was impossible that Dryden could be insensible to the brilliancy of
Congreve's comic dialogue, which has never been equalled by any English
dramatist, unless by Mr. Sheridan. Less can be said for the tragedies of
Southerne, and for "The Mourning Bride." Although these pieces contain
many passages of great interest, and of beautiful poetry, I know not but
they contributed more than even the subsequent homilies of Rowe, to
chase natural and powerful expression of passion from the English stage,
and to sink it into that maudlin, and affected, and pedantic style of
tragedy, which haunted the stage till Shakespeare awakened at the call
of Garrick. "The Fatal Marriage" of Southerne is an exception to this
false taste; for no one who has seen Mrs. Siddons in Isabella, can deny
Southerne the power of moving the passions, till amusement becomes
bitter and almost insupportable distress. But these observations are
here out of place. Addison paid an early tribute to Dryden's fame, by
the verses addressed to him on his translations. Among Dryden's less
distinguished intimates, we observe Sir Henry Shere, Dennis the critic,
Moyle, Motteux, Walsh, who lived to distinguish the youthful merit of
Pope, and other men of the second rank in literature. These, as his
works testify, he frequently assisted with prefaces, occasional verses,
or similar contributions. But among our author's followers and admirers,
we must not reckon Swift, although related to him,[3] and now coming
into notice. It is said, that Swift had subjected to his cousin's
perusal, some of those performances, entitled _Odes_, which appear in
the seventh volume of the last edition of his works. Even the eye of
Dryden was unable to discover the wit and the satirist in the clouds of
incomprehensible pindaric obscurity in which he was enveloped; and the
aged bard pronounced the hasty, and never to be pardoned sentence,--
"Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet."[4] A doom which he, on whom it
was passed, attempted to repay, by repeated, although impotent, attacks
upon the fame of Dryden, everywhere scattered through his works. With
the exception of Swift, no author of eminence, whose labours are still
in request, has ventured to assail the poetical fame of Dryden.

Shortly after the Revolution, Dryden had translated several satires of
Juvenal; and calling in the aid of his two sons, of Congreve, Creech,
Tate, and others, he was enabled, in 1692, to give a complete version
both of that satirist, and of Persius. In this undertaking he himself
bore a large share, translating the whole of Persius, with the first,
third, sixth, tenth, and sixteenth satires of Juvenal. To this version
is prefixed the noted Essay on Satire, inscribed to the Earl of Dorset
and Middlesex. In that treatise, our author exhibits a good deal of that
sort of learning which was in fashion among the French critics; and, I
suspect, was contented rather to borrow something from them, than put
himself to the trouble of compiling more valuable materials. Such is the
disquisition concerning the origin of the word _Satire_, which is
chiefly extracted from Casaubon, Dacier, and Rigault. But the poet's own
incidental remarks upon the comparative merits of Horace, Juvenal, and
Persius, his declamation against the abuse of satire, his incidental
notices respecting epic poetry, translation, and English literature in
general, render this introduction highly valuable.

Without noticing the short prefaces to Walsh's "Essay upon Woman," a
meagre and stiff composition, and to Sir Henry Shere's wretched
translation of Polybius, published in 1691 and 1692, we hasten to the
elegy on the Countess of Abingdon, entitled Eleonora. This lady died
suddenly, 31st May 1691, in a ball-room in her own house, just then
prepared for an entertainment. The disconsolate husband, who seems to
have been a patron of the Muses,[5] not satisfied with the volunteer
effusions of some minor poets, employed a mutual friend to engage Dryden
to compose a more beautiful tribute to his consort's memory. The poet,
it would seem, neither knew the lord nor the lady, but was doubtless
propitiated upon the mournful occasion;[6] nor was the application and
fee judged more extraordinary than that probably offered, on the same
occasion, to the divine who was to preach the Countess's funeral sermon.
The leading and most characteristic features of the lady's character
were doubtless pointed out to our author as subjects for illustration;
yet so difficult is it, even for the best poet, to feign a sorrow which
he feels not, or to describe with appropriate and animated colouring a
person whom he has never seen, that Dryden's poem resembles rather an
abstract panegyric on an imaginary being, than an elegy on a real
character. The elegy was published early in 1692.

In 1693, Tonson's Third Miscellany made its appearance, with a
dedication to Lord Ratcliffe, eldest son of the Earl of Derwentwater,
who was himself a pretender to poetry, though our author thought so
slightly of his attempts in that way, that he does not even deign to
make them enter into his panegyric, but contents himself with saying,
"what you will be hereafter, may be more than guessed by what you are at
present." It is probable that the rhyming peer was dissatisfied with
Dryden's unusual economy of adulation; at least he disappointed some
expectations which the poet and bookseller seem to have entertained of
his liberality.[7] This dedication indicates, that a quarrel was
commenced between our author and the critic Rymer. It appears from a
passage in a letter to Tonson, that Rymer had spoken lightly of him in
his last critique (probably in the short view of tragedy), and that the
poet took this opportunity, as he himself expresses it, to snarl again.
He therefore acquaints us roundly, that the corruption of a poet was the
generation of a critic; exults a little over the memory of Rymer's
"Edgar," a tragedy just reeking from damnation; and hints at the
difference which the public is likely to experience between the present
royal historiographer and him whose room he occupied. In his epistle to
Congreve, alluding to the same circumstance of Rymer's succeeding to the
office of historiographer, as Tate did to the laurel, on the death of
Thomas Shadwell, in 1692, Dryden has these humorous lines:

  "O that your brows my laurel had sustained!
  Well had I been deposed, if you had reigned:
  The father had descended for the son;
  For only you are lineal to the throne.
  Thus, when the state one Edward did depose,
  A greater Edward in his room arose:
  But now not I, but poetry, is cursed;
  For Tom the second reigns like Tom the first.
  But let them not mistake my patron's part,
  Nor call his charity their own desert."

From the letter to Tonson above referred to, it would seem that the
dedication of the Third Miscellany gave offence to Queen Mary, being
understood to reflect upon her government, and that she had commanded
Rymer to return to the charge, by a criticism on Dryden's plays. But the
breach does not appear to have become wider; and Dryden has elsewhere
mentioned Rymer with civility.

The Third Miscellany contained, of Dryden's poetry, a few songs, the
first book, with part of the ninth and sixteenth books of the
Metamorphoses, and the parting of Hector and Andromache, from the Iliad.
It was also to have had the poem of Hero and Leander, from the Greek;
but none such appeared, nor is it clear whether Dryden ever executed the
version, or only had it in contemplation. The contribution, although
ample, was not satisfactory to old Jacob Tonson, who wrote on the
subject a most mercantile expostulatory letter[8] to Dryden, which is
fortunately the minutiae of a literary bargain in the 17th century.
Tonson, with reference to Dryden having offered a strange bookseller six
hundred lines for twenty guineas, enters into a question in the rule of
three, by which he discovers, and proves, that for fifty guineas he has
only 1446 lines, which he seems to take more unkindly, as he had not
_counted_ the lines until he had paid the money; from all which Jacob
infers, that Dryden ought, out of generosity, at least to throw him in
something to the bargain, especially as he had used him more kindly in
Juvenal, which, saith the said Jacob, is not reckoned so easy to
translate as Ovid. What weight was given to this supplication does not
appear; probably very little, for the translations were not extended,
and as to getting back any part of the copy-money, it is not probable
Tonson's most sanguine expectation ever reached that point. Perhaps the
songs were thrown in as a make-weight. There was a Fourth Miscellany
published in 1694; but to this Dryden only gave a version of the third
Georgic, and his Epistle to Sir Godfrey Kneller, the requital of a copy
of the portrait of Shakespeare.[9]

In 1963, Dryden addressed the beautiful lines to Congreve, on the cold
reception of his "Double Dealer." He was himself under a similar cloud,
from the failure of "Love Triumphant," and therefore in a fit mood to
administer consolation to his friend. The epistle contains, among other
striking passages, the affecting charge of the care of his posthumous
fame, which Congreve did not forget when Dryden was no more.

But, independently of occasional exertions, our author, now retired from
the stage, had bent his thoughts upon one great literary task, the
translation of Virgil. This weighty and important undertaking was
probably suggested by the experience of Tonson, the success of whose
"Miscellanies" had taught him the value placed by the public on Dryden's
translations from the classics. From hints thrown out by contemporary
scheme was meditated, even before 1964; but in that year the poet, in a
letter to Dennis, speaks of it as under his immediate contemplation. The
names of Virgil and Dryden were talismans powerful to arrest the eyes of
all that were literary in England, upon the progress of the work. Mr.
Malone has recorded the following particulars concerning it, with pious

"Dr. Johnson has justly remarked, that the nation seemed to consider its
honour interested in the event. Mr. Gilbert Dolben gave him the various
editions of his author: Dr. Knightly Chetwood furnished him with the
life of Virgil, and the Preface to the Pastorals; and Addison supplied
the arguments of the several books, and an Essay on the Georgics. The
first lines of this great poet which he translated, he wrote with a
diamond on a pane of glass in one of the windows of Chesterton House, in
Huntingdonshire, the residence of his kinsman and namesake, John Driden,
Esq.[10] The version of the first Georgic, and a great part of the last
Aeneid, was made at Denham Court, in Buckinghamshire, the seat of Sir
William Bowyer, Baronet; and the seventh Æneid was translated at
Burleigh, the noble mansion of the Earl of Exeter. These circumstances,
which must be acknowledged to be of no great importance, I yet have
thought it proper to record, because they will for ever endear those
places to the votaries of the Muses, and add to them a kind of
celebrity, which neither the beauties of nature, nor the exertions of
art, can bestow."

Neither was the liberality of the nation entirely disproportioned to the
general importance attached to the translation of Virgil, by so eminent
a poet. The researches of Mr. Malone have ascertained, in some degree,
the terms. There were two classes of subscribers, the first set of whom
paid five guineas apiece to adorn the work with engravings; beneath each
of which, in due and grateful remembrance, was blazoned the arms of a
subscriber: this class amounted to one hundred and one persons, a list
of whom appears in this edition, in vol. xiii., and presents an
assemblage of noble names, few of whom are distinguished more to their
credit than by the place they there occupy. The second subscribers were
two hundred and fifty in number, at two guineas each. But from these
sums was to be deducted the expense of the engravings, though these were
only the plates used for Ogilby's Virgil, a little retouched. Besides
the subscriptions, it would seem, that Dryden received from Tonson fifty
pounds for each Book of the "Georgics" and "Æneid," and probably the
same for the Pastorals collectively.[11] On the other hand, it is
probable that Jacob charged a price for the copies delivered to the
subscribers, which, with the expense of the plates, reduced Dryden's
profit to about twelve or thirteen hundred pounds;--a trifling sum when
compared to what Pope received for the "Iliad," which was certainly
between £5,000 and £6,000; yet great in proportion to what the age of
Dryden had ever afforded, as an encouragement to literature. It must
indeed be confessed, that the Revolution had given a new impulse and
superior importance to literary pursuits. The semi-barbarous age, which
succeeded the great civil war, had been civilised by slow degrees. It is
true, the king and courtiers, among their disorderly and dissolute
pleasures, enumerated songs and plays, and, in the course of their
political intrigues, held satires in request; but they had neither money
nor time to spare for the encouragement or study of any of the higher
and more elaborate departments of poetry. Meanwhile, the bulk of the
nation neglected verse, as what they could not understand, or, with
puritanical bigotry, detested as sinful the use, as well as the abuse,
of poetical talent. But the lapse of thirty years made a material change
in the manners of the English people. Instances began to occur of
individuals, who, rising at first into notice for their proficience in
the fine arts, were finally promoted for the active and penetrating
talents, which necessarily accompany a turn towards them. An outward
reformation of manners, at least the general abjuration of grosser
profligacy, was also favourable to poetry,--

  Still first to fly where
  sensual joys invade.

This was wrought, partly by the religious manners of Mary; partly by
the cold and unsocial temper of William, who shunned excess, not
perhaps because it was criminal, but because it was derogatory; partly
by the political fashion of the day, which was to disown the profligacy
that marked the partisans of the Stuarts; but, most of all, by the
general increase of good taste, and the improvement of education. All
these contributed to the encouragement of Dryden's great undertaking,
which promised to rescue Virgil from the degraded version of Ogilby, and
present him in a becoming form to a public, now prepared to receive him
with merited admiration.

While our author was labouring in this great work, and the public were
waiting the issue with impatience and attention, a feud, of which it is
now impossible to trace the cause, arose between the bard and his
publisher. Their union before seems to have been of a nature more
friendly than interest alone could have begotten; for Dryden, in one
letter, talks with gratitude of Tonson's affording him his company down
to Northamptonshire; and this friendly intimacy Jacob neglected not to
cultivate, by those occasional compliments of fruit and wine, which are
often acknowledged in the course of their correspondence. But a quarrel
broke out between them, when the translation of Virgil had advanced so
far as the completion of the seventh Aeneid; at which period Dryden
charges Tonson bitterly, with an intention, from the very beginning, to
deprive him of all profit by the second subscriptions; alluding, I
presume, to the price which the bookseller charged him upon the volumes
delivered to the subscribers. The bibliopolist seems to have bent before
the storm, and pacified the incensed bard, by verbal submission, though
probably without relaxing his exactions and drawbacks in any material
degree. Another cause of this dissension appears to have been the Notes
upon "Virgil," for which Tonson would allow no additional emolument to
the author, although Dryden says, "that to make them good, would cost
six months' labour at least," and elsewhere tells Tonson ironically,
that, since not to be paid, they shall be short, "for the saving of the
paper." I cannot think that we have sustained any great loss by Tonson's
penurious economy on this occasion. In his prefaces and dedications,
Dryden let his own ideas freely forth to the public; but in his Notes
upon the Classics, witness those on "Juvenal" and "Persius," he neither
indulged in critical dissertations on particular beauties and defects,
nor in general remarks upon the kind of poetry before him; but contented
himself with rendering into English the antiquarian dissertations of
Dacier and other foreign commentators, with now and then an explanatory
paraphrase of an obscure passage. The parodies of Martin Scriblerus had
not yet consigned to ridicule the verbal criticism, and solemn trifling,
with which the ancient schoolmen pretended to illustrate the classics.
But beside the dispute about the notes in particular, and the various
advantages which Dryden suspected Tonson of attempting in the course of
the transaction, he seems to have been particularly affronted at a
presumptuous plan of that publisher (a keen Whig, and secretary of the
Kit-cat club) to drive him into inscribing the translation of Virgil to
King William. With this view, Tonson had an especial care to make the
engraver aggravate the nose of Aeneas in the plates into a sufficient
resemblance of the hooked promontory of the Deliverer's countenance;[12]
and, foreseeing Dryden's repugnance to this favourite plan, he had
recourse, it would seem, to more unjustifiable means to further it; for
the poet expresses himself as convinced that, through Tonson's means,
his correspondence with his sons, then at Rome, was intercepted.[13] I
suppose Jacob, having fairly laid siege to his author's conscience, had
no scruple to intercept all foreign supplies, which might have confirmed
him in his pertinacity. But Dryden, although thus closely beleaguered,
held fast his integrity; and no prospect of personal advantage, or
importunity on the part of Tonson, could induce him to take a step
inconsistent with his religious and political sentiments. It was
probably during the course of these bickerings with his publisher, that
Dryden, incensed at some refusal of accommodation on the part of Tonson,
sent him three well-known coarse and forcible satirical lines,
descriptive of his personal appearance:

  "With leering looks, bull-faced, and freckled fair,
  With two left legs, and Judas-coloured hair,
  And frowzy pores, that taint the ambient air."

"Tell the dog," said the poet to the messenger, "that he who wrote these
can write more." But Tonson, perfectly satisfied with this single
triplet, hastened to comply with the author's request, without requiring
any further specimen of his poetical powers. It would seem, however,
that when Dryden neglected his stipulated labour, Tonson possessed
powers of animadversion, which, though exercised in plain prose, were
not a little dreaded by the poet. Lord Bolingbroke, already a votary of
the Muses, and admitted to visit their high priest, was wont to relate,
that one day he heard another person enter the house. "This," said
Dryden, "is Tonson: you will take care not to depart before he goes
away: for I have not completed the sheet which I promised him; and if
you leave me unprotected, I shall suffer all the rudeness to which his
resentment can prompt his tongue."[14] But whatever occasional subjects
of dissension arose between Dryden and his bookseller appears always to
have brought them together, after the first ebullition of displeasure
had subsided. There might, on such occasions, be room for acknowledging
faults on both sides; for, if we admit that the bookseller was penurious
and churlish, we cannot deny that Dryden seems often to have been
abundantly captious, and irascible. Indeed, as the poet placed, and
justly, more than a mercantile value upon what he sold, the trader, on
his part, was necessarily cautious not to afford a price which his
returns could not pay; so that while, in one point of view, the author
sold at an inadequate price, the purchaser, in another, really got no
more than value for his money. That literature is ill recompensed, is
usually rather the fault of the public than the bookseller, whose trade
can only exist by buying that which can be sold to advantage. The
trader, who purchased the "Paradise Lost" for ten pounds, had probably
no very good bargain.[15]

However fretted by these teasing and almost humiliating discussions,
Dryden continued steadily advancing in his great labour; and about three
years after it had been undertaken, the translation of Virgil, "the most
noble and spirited," said Pope, "which I know in any language," was
given to the public in July 1697. So eager was the general expectation,
that the first edition was exhausted in a few months, and a second
published early in the next year. "It satisfied," says Johnson, "his
friends, and, for the most part, silenced his enemies." But, although
this was generally the case, there wanted not some to exercise the
invidious task of criticism, or rather of malevolent detraction. Among
those, the highest name is that of Swift; the most distinguished for
venomous and persevering malignity, that of Milbourne.

In his Epistle to Prince Posterity, prefixed to the "Tale of a Tub,"
Swift, in the character of the dedicator, declares, "upon the word of a
sincere man, that there is now actually in being a certain poet called
John Dryden, whose translation of Virgil was lately printed in a large
folio, well-bound, and, if diligent search were made, for aught I know,
is yet to be seen." In his "Battle of the Books," he tells us, "that
Dryden, who encountered Virgil, soothed the good ancient by the
endearing title of 'father,' and, by a large deduction of genealogies,
made it appear, that they were nearly related, and humbly proposed an
exchange of armour; as a mark of hospitality, Virgil consented, though
his was of gold, and cost an hundred beeves, the other's but of rusty
iron. However, this glittering armour became the modern still worse than
his own. Then they agreed to exchange horses; but, when it came to the
trial, Dryden was afraid, and utterly unable to mount." A yet more
bitter reproach is levelled by the wit against the poet, for his triple
dedication of the Pastorals, Georgics, and Aeneid, to three several
patrons, Clifford, Chesterfield, and Mulgrave.[16] But, though the
recollection of the contemned Odes, like the _spretae injuria formae_ of
Juno, still continued to prompt these overflowings of Swift's satire, he
had too much taste and perception of poetry to attempt, gravely, to
undermine, by a formal criticism, the merits of Dryden's Virgil.

This was reserved for Luke Milbourne, a clergyman, who, by that
assurance, has consigned his name to no very honourable immortality.
This person appears to have had a living at Great Yarmouth,[17] which,
Dryden hints, he forfeited by writing libels on his parishioners; and
from another testimony, he seems to have been a person of no very strict
morals.[18] Milbourne was once an admirer of our poet, as appears from
his letter concerning "Amphitryon," vol. viii. But either poetical
rivalry, for he had also thought of translating Virgil himself,[19] or
political animosity, for he seems to have held revolution principles, or
deep resentment for Dryden's sarcasms against the clergy, or, most
probably, all these united, impelled Milbourne to publish a most furious
criticism, entitled, "Notes on Dryden's Virgil, in a Letter to a
Friend." "And here," said he, "in the first place, I must needs own
Jacob Tonson's ingenuity to be greater than the translator's, who, in
the inscription of his fine gay (title) in the front of the book, calls
it very honestly Dryden's Virgil, to let the reader know, that this is
not that Virgil so much admired in the Augustaean age, an author whom
Mr. Dryden once thought untranslatable, but a Virgil of another stamp,
of a coarser allay; a silly, impertinent, nonsensical writer, of a
various and uncertain style, a mere Alexander Ross, or somebody inferior
to him; who could never have been known again in the translation, if the
name of Virgil had not been bestowed upon him in large characters in the
frontispiece, and in the running title. Indeed, there is scarce the
_magni nominis umbra_ to be met with in this translation, which being
fairly intimated by Jacob, he needs add no more, but _si populus vult
decipi, decipiatur._"

With an assurance which induced Pope to call him the fairest of critics,
not content with criticising the production of Dryden, Milbourne was so
ill advised as to produce, and place in opposition to it, a rickety
translation of his own, probably the fragments of that which had been
suppressed by Dryden's version. A short specimen, both of his criticism
and poetry, will convince the reader, that the powers of the former
were, as has been often the case, neutralised by the insipidity of the
latter; for who can rely on the judgment of a critic so ill qualified to
illustrate his own precepts? I take the remarks on the tenth Eclogue, as
a specimen, at hazard. "This eclogue is translated in a strain too
luscious and effeminate for Virgil, who might bemoan his friend, but
does it in a noble and a manly style, which Mr. Ogilby answers better
than Mr. D., whose paraphrase looks like one of Mrs. Behn's, when
somebody had turned the original into English prose before.

"Where Virgil says,

  _Lauri et myricae flevêre_,

the figure's beautiful; where Mr. D. says,

         the laurel stands in tears,
  And hung with humid pearls, the lowly shrub appears,

the figure is lost, and a foolish and impertinent representation comes
in its place; an ordinary dewy morning might fill the laurels and shrubs
with Mr. D.'s tears, though Gallus had not been concerned in it.

  And yet the queen of beauty blest his bed--

"Here Mr. D. comes with his ugly patch upon a beautiful face: what had
the queen of beauty to do here? Lycoris did not despise her lover for
his meanness, but because she had a mind to be a Catholic whore. Gallus
was of quality, but her spark a poor inferior fellow. And yet the queen
of beauty, etc., would have followed there very well, but not where
wanton Mr. D. has fixt her."

  Flushed were his cheeks, and glowing were his eyes.

"This character is fitter for one that is drunk than one in an
amazement, and is a thought unbecoming Virgil."

  And for thy rival, tempts the raging sea,
  The forms of horrid war, and heaven's inclemency.

"Lycoris, doubtless, was a jilting baggage, but why should Mr. D. belie
her? Virgil talks nothing of her going to sea, and perhaps she had a
mind to be only a camp laundress, which office she might be advanced to
without going to sea: 'the forms of horrid war,' for _horrida castra_,
is incomparable."

      his brows, a country crown
  Of fennel, and of nodding lilies drown,

"is a very odd figure: Sylvanus had swinging brows to drown such a crown
as that, _i.e._ to make it invisible, to swallow it up; if it be a
country crown, drown his brows, it is false English."

  The meads are sooner drunk with morning dews.

"_Rivi_ signifies no such thing; but then, that bees should be drunk
with flowery shrubs, or goats be drunk with brouze, for drunk's the
verb, is a very quaint thought."

After much more to the same purpose, Milbourne thus introduces his own
version of the first Eclogue, with a confidence worthy of a better
cause:--"That Mr. Dryden might be satisfied that I'd offer no foul play,
nor find faults in him, without giving him an opportunity of
retaliation, I have subjoined another metaphrase or translation of the
first and fourth pastoral, which I desire may be read with his by the



  _Mel._ Beneath a spreading beech you, Tityrus, lie,
  And country songs to humble reeds apply;
  We our sweet fields, our native country fly,
  We leave our country; you in shades may lie,
  And Amaryllis fair and blythe proclaim,
  And make the woods repeat her buxom name.

  _Tit._ O Melibaeus! 'twas a bounteous God,
  These peaceful play-days on our muse bestowed;
  At least, he'st alway be a God to me;
  My lambs shall oft his grateful offerings be.
  Thou seest, he lets my herds securely stray,
  And me at pleasure on my pipe to play.

  _Mel._ Your peace I don't with looks of envy view,
  But I admire your happy state, and you.
  In all our farms severe distraction reigns,
  No ancient owner there in peace remains.
  Sick, I, with much ado, my goats can drive,
  This Tityrus, I scarce can lead alive;
  On the bare stones, among yon hazels past,
  Just now, alas! her hopeful twins she cast.
  Yet had not all on's dull and senseless been,
  We'd long agon this coming stroke foreseen.
  Oft did the blasted oaks our fate unfold,
  And boding choughs from hollow trees foretold.
  But say, good Tityrus! tell me who's the God,
  Who peace, so lost to us, on you bestow'd?"

Some critics there were, though but few, who joined Milbourne in his
abortive attempt to degrade our poet's translation. Oldmixon, celebrated
for his share in the games of the Dunciad,[20] and Samuel Parker,[21] a
yet more obscure name, have informed us of this, by volunteering in
Dryden's defence. But Dryden needed not their assistance. The real
excellencies of his version were before the public, and it was rather to
clear himself from the malignant charges against his moral principles,
which Melbourne had mingled with his criticism, than for any other
purpose, that the poet deemed his antagonist worthy of the following
animadversion:--"Milbourne, who is in orders, pretends amongst the rest
this quarrel to me, that I have fallen foul on priesthood: if I have, I
am only to ask pardon of good priests, and am afraid his part of the
reparation will come to little. Let him be satisfied, that he shall not
he able to force himself upon me for an adversary. I contemn him too
much to enter into competition with him. His own translations of Virgil
have answered his criticisms on mine. If (as they say he has declared in
print) he prefers the version of Ogilby to mine, the world has made him
the same compliment; for it is agreed on all hands, that he writes even
below Ogilby. That, you will say, is not easily to be done; but what
cannot Milbourne bring about? I am satisfied, however, that while he and
I live together, I shall not be thought the worst poet of the age. It
looks as if I had desired him underhand to write so ill against me; but
upon my honest word, I have not bribed him to do me this service, and am
wholly guiltless of his pamphlet. It is true, I should be glad if I
could persuade him to continue his good offices, and write such another
critique on anything of mine; for I find, by experience, he has a great
stroke with the reader, when he condemns any of my poems, to make the
world have a better opinion of them. He has taken some pains with my
poetry; but nobody will be persuaded to take the same with his. If I had
taken to the Church (as he affirms, but which was never in my thoughts),
I should have had more sense, if not more grace, than to have turned
myself out of my benefice by writing libels on my parishioners. But his
account of my manners, and my principles, are of a piece with his cavils
and his poetry; and so I have done with him for ever."[22]

While Dryden was engaged with his great translation, he found two
months' leisure to execute a prose version of Fresnoy's "Art of
Painting," to which he added an ingenious Preface, the work of twelve
mornings, containing a parallel between that art and poetry; of which
Mason has said, that though too superficial to stand the test of strict
criticism, yet it will always give pleasure to readers of taste, even
when it fails to convince their judgment. This version appeared in 1695.
Mr. Malone conjectures that our author was engaged in this task by his
friends Closterman, and Sir Godfrey Kneller, artists, who had been
active in procuring subscriptions for his Virgil. He also wrote a "Life
of Lucian," for a translation of his works, by Mr. Walter Moyle, Sir
Henry Shere, and other gentlemen of pretension to learning. This
version, although it did not appear till after his death, and although
he executed no part of the translation, still retains the title of
"Dryden's Lucian."

There was one event of political importance which occurred in December
1695, and which the public seem to have expected should have employed
the pen of Dryden;--this was the death of Mary, wife of William the
Third. It is difficult to conceive in what manner the poet laureate of
the unfortunate James could have treated the memory of his daughter.
Satire was dangerous, and had indeed been renounced by the poet; and
panegyric was contrary to the principles for which he was suffering.
Yet, among the swarm of rhymers who thrust themselves upon the nation on
that mournful occasion, there are few who do not call, with friendly or
unfriendly voice, upon our poet to break silence.[23] But the voice of
praise and censure was heard in vain, and Dryden's only interference
was, in character of the first judge of his time, to award the prize to
the Duke of Devonshire, as author of the best poem composed on occasion
of the Queen's death.[24]

Virgil was hardly finished, when our author distinguished himself by the
immortal Ode to Saint Cecilia, commonly called "Alexander's Feast."
There is some difference of evidence concerning the time occupied in
this splendid task. He had been solicited to undertake it by the
stewards of the Musical Meeting, which had for several years met to
celebrate the feast of St. Cecilia, their patroness, and whom he had
formerly gratified by a similar performance. In September 1697, Dryden
writes to his son:--"In the meantime, I am writing a song for St.
Cecilia's feast; who, you know, is the patroness of music. This is
troublesome, and no way beneficial; but I could not deny the stewards,
who came in a body to my house to desire that kindness, one of them
being Mr. Bridgeman, whose parents are your mother's friends." This
account seems to imply, that the Ode was a work of some time; which is
countenanced by Dr. Birch's expression, that Dryden himself "observes,
in an original letter of his, that he was employed for almost a
fortnight in composing and correcting it."[25] On the other hand, the
following anecdote is told upon very respectable authority. "Mr. St.
John, afterwards Lord Bolingbroke, happening to pay a morning visit to
Dryden, whom he always respected, found him in an unusual agitation of
spirits, even to a trembling. On inquiring the cause, 'I have been up
all night,' replied the old bard: 'my musical friends made me promise to
write them an Ode for their feast of St. Cecilia: I have been so struck
with the subject which occurred to me, that I could not leave it till I
had _completed_ it; here it is, _finished_ at one sitting.' And
immediately he showed him _this_ Ode, which places the British lyric
poetry above that of any other nation."[26] These accounts are not,
however, so contradictory as they may at first sight appear. It is
possible that Dryden may have completed, at one sitting, the whole Ode,
and yet have employed a fortnight, or much more, in correction. There is
strong internal evidence to show that the poem was, speaking with
reference to its general structure, wrought off at once. A halt or
pause, even of a day, would perhaps have injured that continuous flow of
poetical language and description which argues the whole scene to have
arisen at once upon the author's imagination. It seems possible, more
especially in lyrical poetry, to discover where the author has paused
for any length of time; for the union of the parts is rarely so perfect
as not to show a different strain of thought and feeling. There may be
something fanciful, however, in this reasoning, which I therefore
abandon to the reader's mercy; only begging him to observe, that we have
no mode of estimating the exertions of a quality so capricious as a
poetic imagination; so that it is very possible, that the Ode to St.
Cecilia may have been the work of twenty-four hours, whilst correction
and emendations, perhaps of no very great consequence, occupied the
author as many days. Derrick, in his "Life of Dryden," tells us, upon
the authority of Walter Moyle, that the society paid Dryden £40 for this
sublime Ode, which, from the passage in his letter above quoted, seems
to have been more than the bard expected at commencing his labour. The
music for this celebrated poem was originally composed by Jeremiah
Clarke,[27] one of the stewards of the festival, whose productions where
more remarkable for deep pathos and delicacy than for fire and energy.
It is probable that, with such a turn of mind and taste, he may have
failed in setting the sublime, lofty, and daring flights of the Ode to
St. Cecilia. Indeed his composition was not judged worthy of
publication. The Ode, after some impertinent alterations, made by
Hughes, at the request of Sir Richard Steele, was set to music by
Clayton, who, with Steele, managed a public concert in 1711; but neither
was this a successful essay to connect the poem with the art it
celebrated. At length, in 1736, "Alexander's Feast" was set by Handel,
and performed in the Theatre-Royal, Covent Garden, with the full success
which the combined talents of the poet and the musician seemed to
insure.[28] Indeed, although the music was at first less successful, the
poetry received, even in the author's time, all the applause which its
unrivalled excellence demanded. "I am glad to hear from all hands," says
Dryden, in a letter to Tonson, "that my Ode is esteemed the best of all
my poetry, by all the town. I thought so myself when I writ it; but,
being old, I mistrusted my own judgment." Mr. Malone has preserved a
tradition, that the father of Lord Chief-Justice Marlay, then a Templar,
and frequenter of Will's coffeehouse, took an opportunity to pay his
court to Dryden, on the publication of "Alexander's Feast;" and,
happening to sit next him, congratulated him on having produced the
finest and noblest Ode that had ever been written in any language. "You
are right, young gentleman (replied Dryden), a nobler Ode never _was_
produced, nor ever _will_." This singularly strong expression cannot be
placed to the score of vanity. It was an inward consciousness of merit,
which burst forth, probably almost involuntarily, and I fear must be
admitted as prophetic.

The preparation of a new edition of the Virgil, which appeared in 1698,
occupied nine days only, after which Dryden began seriously to consider
to what he should next address his pen. The state of his circumstances
rendered constant literary labour indispensable to the support of his
family, although the exertion, and particularly the confinement,
occasioned by his studies, considerably impaired his health. His son
Charles had met with an accident at Rome, which was attended with a
train of consequences perilous to his health; and Dryden, anxious to
recall him to Britain, was obliged to make extraordinary exertions to
provide against this additional expense. "If it please God," he writes
to Tonson, "that I must die of over-study, I cannot spend my life better
than in preserving his." It is affecting to read such a passage in the
life of such a man; yet the necessities of the poet, like the
afflictions of the virtuous, smooth the road to immortality. While
Milton and Dryden were favoured by the rulers of the day, they were
involved in the religious and political controversies which raged around
them; it is to hours of seclusion, neglect, and even penury, that we owe
the Paradise Lost, the Virgil, and the Fables.

Among other projects, Dryden seems to have had thoughts of altering and
revising a tragedy called the "Conquest of China by the Tartars,"
written by his ancient friend and brother-in-law, Sir Robert Howard. The
unkindness which had arisen between them upon the subject of blank verse
and rhyme, seems to have long since passed away; and we observe, with
pleasure, that Dryden, in the course of the pecuniary transactions about
Virgil, reckons upon the assistance of Sir Robert Howard, and consults
his taste also in the revisal of the version.[29] But Dryden never
altered the "Conquest of China," being first interrupted by the
necessity of revising Virgil, and afterwards, perhaps, by a sort of
quarrel which took place between him and the players, of whom he speaks
most resentfully in his "Epistle to Granville," upon his tragedy of
"Heroic Love," acted in the beginning of 1698.[30]

The success of Virgil encouraged Dryden about this time to turn his eyes
upon Homer; and the general voice of the literary world called upon him
to do the venerable Grecian the same service which the Roman had
received from him. It was even believed that he had fixed upon the mode
of translation, and that he was, as he elsewhere expresses it, to "fight
unarmed, without his rhyme."[31] A dubious anecdote bears, that he even
regretted he had not rendered Virgil into blank verse, and shows at the
same time, if genuine, how far he must now have disapproved of his own
attempt to turn into rhyme the Paradise Lost. The story is told by the
elder Richardson, in his remarks on the tardy progress of Milton's great
work in the public opinion.[32] When Dryden did translate the First Book
of Homer, which he published with the Fables, he rendered it into rhyme;
nor have we sufficient ground to believe that he ever seriously
intended, in so large a work, to renounce the advantages which he
possessed, by his unequalled command of versification. That in other
respects the task was consonant to his temper, as well as talents, he
has himself informed us. "My thoughts," he says, in a letter to Halifax,
in 1699, "are at present fixed on Homer; and by my translation of the
first Iliad, I find him a poet more according to my genius than Virgil,
and consequently hope I may do him more justice, in his fiery way of
writing; which, as it is liable to more faults, so it is capable of more
beauties than the exactness and sobriety of Virgil. Since it is for my
country's honour, as well as for my own, that I am willing to undertake
this task, I despair not of being encouraged in it by your favour." But
this task Dryden was not destined to accomplish, although he had it so
much at heart as to speak of resuming it only three months before his

In the meanwhile, our author had engaged himself in making those
imitations of Boccacio and Chaucer, which have been since called the
"Fables;" and in spring 1699, he was in such forwardness, as to put into
Tonson's hands "seven thousand five hundred verses, more or less," as
the contract bears, being a partial delivery to account of ten thousand
verses, which by that deed he agreed to furnish, for the sum of two
hundred and fifty guineas, to be made up three hundred pounds upon
publication of the second edition. This second payment Dryden lived not
to receive. With the contents of this miscellaneous volume we are to
suppose him engaged, from the revisal of the Virgil, in 1697, to the
publication of the Fables, in March 1699-1700. This was the last period
of his labours, and of his life; and, like all the others, it did not
pass undisturbed by acrimonious criticism, and controversy. The dispute
with Milbourne we noticed, before dismissing the subject of Virgil; but
there were two other persons who, in their zeal for morality and
religion, chose to disturb the last years of the life of Dryden.

The indelicacy of the stage, being, in its earliest period, merely the
coarse gross raillery of a barbarous age, was probably of no greater
injury to the morals of the audience, than it is to those of the lower
ranks of society, with whom similar language is everywhere admitted as
wit and humour. During the reigns of James I. and Charles I. this
licence was gradually disappearing. In the domination of the fanatics,
which succeeded, matters were so much changed, that, far from permitting
the use of indelicate or profane allusions, they wrapped up not only
their most common temporal affairs, but even their very crimes and
vices, in the language of their spiritual concerns. Luxury was _using
the creature_; avarice was _seeking experiences_; insurrection was
_putting the hand to the plough_; actual rebellion, _fighting the good
fight_; and regicide, _doing the great work of the Lord._ This
vocabulary became grievously unfashionable at the Reformation, and was
at once swept away by the torrent of irreligion, blasphemy, and
indecency, which were at that period deemed necessary to secure
conversation against the imputation of disloyalty and fanaticism. The
court of Cromwell, if lampoons can be believed, was not much less
vicious than that of Charles II., but it was less scandalous; and, as
Dryden himself expresses it,

  "The sin was of our native growth, 'tis true;
  The scandal of the sin was wholly new.
  Misses there were, but modestly concealed,
  Whitehall the naked Goddess first revealed;
  Who standing, as at Cyprus, in her shrine,
  The strumpet was adored with rites divine."

This torrent of licentiousness had begun in some degree to abate, even
upon the accession of James II., whose manners did not encourage the
same general licence as those of Charles. But after the Revolution, when
an affectation of profligacy was no longer deemed a necessary attribute
of loyalty, and when it began to be thought possible that a man might
have some respect for religion without being a republican, or even a
fanatic, the licence of the stage was generally esteemed a nuisance. It
then happened, as is not uncommon, that those, most bustling and active
to correct public abuses, were men whose intentions may, without doing
them injury, be estimated more highly than their talents. Thus, Sir
Richard Blackmore, a grave physician, residing and practising on the
sober side of Temple-Bar, was the first who professed to reform the
spreading pest of poetical licentiousness, and to correct such men as
Dryden, Congreve, and Wycherly. This worthy person, compassionating the
state to which poetry was reduced by his contemporaries, who used their
wit "in opposition to religion, and to the destruction of virtue and
good manners in the world," resolved to rescue the Muses from this
unworthy thraldom, "to restore them to their sweet and chaste mansions,
and to engage them in an employment suited to their dignity." With this
laudable view he wrote "Prince Arthur, an Epic Poem," published in 1695.
The preface contained a furious, though just, diatribe,
against the licence of modern comedy, with some personal reflections
aimed at Dry den directly.[34] This the poet felt more unkindly, as Sir
Richard had, without acknowledgment, availed himself of the hints he had
thrown out in the "Essay upon Satire," for the management of an epic
poem on the subject of King Arthur. He bore, however, the attack,
without resenting it, until he was again assailed by Sir Richard in his
"Satire upon Wit," written expressly to correct the dissolute and
immoral performances of the writers of his time. With a ponderous
attempt at humour, the good knight proposes, that a _bank for wit_
should be established, and that all which had hitherto passed as
current, should be called in, purified in the mint, re-coined, and
issued forth anew, freed from alloy.

This satire was published in 1700, as the title-page bears; but Mr.
Luttrell marks his copy 23rd November 1699.[35] It contains more than
one attack upon our author. Thus, we are told (wit being previously
described as a malady),

  "Vanine, that looked on all the danger past,
  Because he 'scaped so long, is seized at last;
  By p----, by hunger, and by Dryden bit,
  He grins and snarls, and, in his dogged fit,
  Froths at the mouth, a certain sign of wit."

Elsewhere the poet complains, that the universities,

      "debauched by Dryden and his crew,
  Turn bawds to vice, and wicked aims pursue."

Again, p. 14--

  "Dryden condemn, who taught men how to make,
  Of dunces wits, an angel of a rake."

But the main offence lies in the following passage:--

  "Set forth your edict; let it be enjoined,
  That all defective species be recoined;
  St. E--m--t and R--r both are fit
  To oversee the coining of our wit.
  Let these be made the masters of essay,
  They'll every piece of metal touch and weigh,
  And tell which is too light, which has too much allay.
  'Tis true, that when the coarse and worthless dross
  Is purged away, there will be mighty loss.
  E'en Congreve, Southerne, manly Wycherly,
  When thus refined, will grievous sufferers be.
  Into the melting-pot when Dryden comes,
  What horrid stench will rise, what noisome fumes!
  How will he shrink, when all his lewd allay,
  And wicked mixture, shall be purged away?
  When once his boasted heaps are melted down,
  A chest-full scarce will yield one sterling crown.
  Those who will D--n--s melt, and think to find
  A goodly mass of bullion left behind,
  Do, as the Hibernian wit, who, as 'tis told,
  Burnt his gilt feather, to collect the gold.
       *       *       *       *       *
  But what remains will be so pure, 'twill bear
  The examination of the most severe;
  'Twill S--r's scales, and Talbot's test abide,
  And with their mark please all the world beside."

These repeated attacks at length called down the vengeance of Dryden.
who thus retorted upon him in the preface to the Fables:--

"As for the City Bard, or Knight Physician, I hear his quarrel to me is,
that I was the author of 'Absalom and Achitophel,' which he   thinks, is
a little hard on his fanatic patrons in London.

"But I will deal the more civilly with his two poems, because nothing
ill is to be spoken of the dead; and, therefore, peace be to the manes
of his 'Arthurs.' I will only say, that it was not for this noble knight
that I drew the plan of an epic poem on King Arthur, in my preface to
the translation of Juvenal. The guardian angels of kingdoms were
machines too ponderous for him to manage; and therefore he rejected
them, as Dares did the whirl bats of Eryx, when they were thrown before
him by Entellus: yet from that preface, he plainly took his hint; for he
began immediately upon the story, though he had the baseness not to
acknowledge his benefactor, but, instead of it, to traduce me in a

Blackmore, who had perhaps thought the praise contained in his two last
couplets ought to have allayed Dryden's resentment, finding that they
failed in producing this effect, very unhandsomely omitted them in his
next edition, and received, as will presently be noticed, another
flagellation, in the last verses Dryden ever wrote.

But a more formidable champion than Blackmore had arisen, to scourge the
profligacy of the theatre. This was no other than the celebrated Jeremy
Collier, a nonjuring clergyman, who published, in 1698, "A Short View of
the Immorality and Profaneness of the Stage." His qualities as a
reformer are described by Dr. Johnson in language never to be amended.
"He was formed for a controvertist; with sufficient learning; with
diction vehement and pointed, though often vulgar and incorrect; with
unconquerable pertinacity; with wit in the highest degree keen and
sarcastic; and with all those powers exalted and invigorated by the just
confidence in his cause.

"Thus qualified, and thus incited, he walked out to battle, and assailed
at once most of the living writers, from Dryden to Durfey. His onset was
violent: those passages, which while they stood single, had passed with
little notice, when they were accumulated and exposed together caught
the alarm, and the nation wondered why it had so long suffered
irreligion and licentiousness charge."

Notwithstanding the justice of this description, there is a strange
mixture of sense and nonsense in Collier's celebrated treatise. Not
contented with resting his objections to dramatic immorality and
religion, Jeremy labours to confute the poets of the 17th century, by
drawing them into comparison with Plautus and Aristophanes, which is
certainly judging of one crooked line by another. Neither does he omit,
like his predecessor Prynne, to marshal against the British stage those
fulminations directed by the fathers of the Church against the Pagan
theatres; although Collier could not but know, that it was the
performance of the heathen ritual, and not merely the action of the
drama, which rendered it sinful for the early Christians to attend the
theatre. The book was, however, of great service to dramatic poetry,
which, from that time, was less degraded by licence and indelicacy.

Dryden, it may be believed, had, as his comedies well deserved, a
liberal share of the general censure; but, however he might have felt
the smart of Collier's severity, he had the magnanimity to acknowledge
its justice. In the preface to the Fables, he makes the _amende
honorable._ "I shall say the less of Mr. Collier, because in many things
he has taxed me justly; and I have pleaded guilty to all thoughts and
expressions of mine, which can be truly argued of obscenity,
profaneness, or immorality, and retract them. If he be my enemy, let him
triumph; if he be my friend, as I have given him no personal occasion to
be otherwise, he will be glad of my repentance. It becomes me not to
draw my pen in the defence of a bad cause, when I have so often drawn it
for a good one." To this manly and liberal admission, he has indeed
tacked a complaint, that Collier had sometimes, by a strained
interpretation, made the evil sense of which he complained; that he had
too much "horse-play in his raillery;" and that, "if the zeal for God's
house had not eaten him up, it had at least devoured some part of his
good manners and civility." Collier seems to have been somewhat pacified
by this qualified acknowledgment, and, during the rest of the
controversy, turned his arms chiefly against Congreve, who resisted, and
spared, comparatively at least, the sullen submission of Dryden.[36]

While these controversies were raging, Dryden's time was occupied with
the translations or imitations of Chaucer and Boccacio. Among these, the
"Character of the Good Parson" is introduced, probably to confute
Milbourne, Blackmore, and Collier, who had severally charged our author
with the wilful and premeditated contumely thrown upon the clergy in
many passages of his satirical writings. This too seems to have inflamed
the hatred of Swift, who, with all his levities, was strictly attached
to his order, and keenly jealous of its honours.[37] Dryden himself
seems to have been conscious of his propensity to assail churchmen. "I
remember," he writes to his sons, "the counsel you gave me in your
letter; but dissembling, although lawful in some cases, is not my
talent; yet, for your sake, I will struggle with the plain openness of
my nature, and keep in my just resentments against that _degenerate
order_."[38] Milbourne, and other enemies of our author, imputed this
resentment against the clergy, to his being refused orders when he
wished to take them, in the reign of Charles, with a view to the
Provostship of Eton, or some Irish preferment.[39] But Dryden assures
us, that he never had any thoughts of entering the Church. Indeed, his
original offences of this kind may be safely ascribed to the fashionable
practice, after the Restoration, of laughing at all that was accounted
serious before that period.

And when Dryden became a convert to the Catholic faith, he was, we have
seen, involved in an immediate and furious controversy with the clergy
of the Church of England. Thus, an unbeseeming strain of raillery,
adopted in wantonness, became aggravated, by controversy, into real
dislike and animosity. But Dryden, in the "Character of a Good Parson,"
seems determined to show that he could estimate the virtue of the
clerical order. He undertook the task at the instigation of Mr. Pepys,
the founder of the Library in Magdalen College, which bears his
name;[40] and has accomplished it with equal spirit and elegance; not
forgetting, however, to make his pattern of clerical merit of his own
jacobitical principles.

Another very pleasing performance, which entered [into] the Miscellany
called "The Fables," is the epistle to John Driden of Chesterton, the
poet's cousin. The letters to Mrs. Steward show the friendly intimacy in
which the relations had lived, since the opposition of the Whigs to King
William's government in some degree united that party in conduct, though
not in motive, with the favourers of King James. Yet our author's strain
of politics, as at first expressed in the epistle, was too severe for
his cousin's digestion. Some reflections upon the Dutch allies, and
their behaviour in the war, were omitted, as tending to reflect upon
King William; and the whole piece, to avoid the least chance of giving
offence, was subjected to the revision of Montague, with a deprecation
of his displeasure, an entreaty of his patronage, and the humiliating
offer, that, although repeated correction had already purged the spirit
out of the poem, nothing should stand in it relating to public affairs.
without Mr. Montague's permission. What answer "full-blown Bufo"
returned to Dryden's petition, does not appear; but the author's
opposition principles were so deeply woven in with the piece, that they
could not be obliterated without tearing it to pieces. His model of an
English member of parliament votes in opposition, as his Good Parson is
a nonjuror, and the Fox in the fable of Old Chaucer is translated into a
puritan.[41] The epistle was highly acceptable to Mr. Driden of
Chesterton, who acknowledged the immortality conferred on him, by "a
noble present," which family tradition states to have amounted to
£500.[42] Neither did Dryden neglect so fair an opportunity to avenge
himself on his personal, as well as his political adversaries. Milbourne
and Blackmore receive in the epistle severe chastisement for their
assaults upon his poetry and private character:

  "What help from art's endeavours can we have?
  Guibbons but guesses, nor is sure to save;
  But Maurus sweeps whole parishes, and peoples every grave,
  And no more mercy to mankind will use
  Than when he robbed and murdered Maro's muse.
  Wouldst thou be soon despatched, and perish whole,
  Trust Maurus with thy life, and Milbourne with thy soul"

Referring to another place, what occurs upon the style and execution of
the Fables, I have only to add, that they were published early in spring
1700, in a large folio, and with the "Ode to Saint Cecilia." The epistle
to Driden of Chesterton, and a translation of the first Iliad, must have
move than satisfied the mercantile calculations of Tonson, since they
contained seventeen hundred verses above the quantity which Dryden had
contracted to deliver. In the preface, the author vindicates himself
with great spirit against his literary adversaries; makes his usual
strong and forcible remarks on the genius of the authors whom he had
imitated; and, in this his last critical work, shows all the acumen
which had so long distinguished his powers. The Fables were dedicated to
the last Duke of Ormond, the grandson of the Barzillai of "Absalom and
Achitophel," and the son of the heroic Earl of Ossory; friends both, and
patrons of Dryden's earlier essays. There is something affecting in a
connection so honourably maintained; and the sentiment, as touched by
Dryden, is simply pathetic. "I am not vain enough to boast, that I have
deserved the value of so illustrious a line; but my fortune is the
greater, that for three descents they have been pleased to distinguish
my poems from those of other men; and have accordingly made me their
peculiar care. May it be permitted me to say, that as your grandfather
and father were cherished monarchs, so I have been esteemed and
patronised by the grandfather, the father, and the son, descended from
one of the most ancient, most conspicuous, and most deserving families
in Europe."

There were also prefixed to the "Fables," those introductory verses
addressed to the beautiful Duchess of Ormond,[43] which have all the
easy, felicitous, and sprightly gallantry, demanded on such occasions.
The incense, it is said, was acknowledged by a present of £500; a
donation worthy of the splendid house of Ormond. The sale of the
"Fables" was surprisingly slow: even the death of the author, which has
often sped away a lingering impression, does not seem to have increased
the demand; and the second edition was not printed till 1713, when,
Dryden and all his immediate descendants being no more, the sum
stipulated upon that event was paid by Tonson to Lady Sylvius, daughter
of one of Lady Elizabeth Dryden's brothers, for the benefit of his
widow, then in a state of lunacy.--See Appendix, vol. xviii.

The end of Dryden's labours was now fast approaching; and, as his career
began upon the stage, it was in some degree doomed to terminate there.
It is true, he never recalled his resolution to write no more plays; but
Vanbrugh having about this time revised and altered for the Drury-lane
theatre, Fletcher's lively comedy of "The Pilgrim," it was agreed that
Dryden, or, as one account says, his son Charles,[44] should have the
profits of a third night on condition of adding to the piece a Secular
Masque, adapted to the supposed termination of the seventeenth
century;[45] a Dialogue in the Madhouse between two Distracted Lovers;
and a Prologue and Epilogue. The Secular Masque contains a beautiful and
spirited delineation of the reigns of James I., Charles I., and Charles
II., in which the influence of Diana, Mars, and Venus, are supposed to
have respectively predominated. Our author did not venture to assign a
patron to the last years of the century, though the expulsion of Saturn
might have given a hint for it. The music of the Masque is said to have
been good; at least it is admired by the eccentric author of John
Buncle.[46] The Prologue and Epilogue to "The Pilgrim," were written
within twenty days of Dryden's death; [47] and their spirit equals that
of any of his satirical compositions. They afford us the less pleasing
conviction, that even the last fortnight of Dryden's life was occupied
in repelling or retorting the venomed attacks of his literary foes. In
the Prologue, he gives Blackmore a drubbing which would have annihilated
any author of ordinary modesty; but the knight[48] was as remarkable for
his powers of endurance, as some modern pugilists are said to be, for
the quality technically called _bottom_. After having been "brayed in a
mortar," as Solomon expresses it, by every wit of his time, Sir Richard
not only survived to commit new offences against ink and paper, but had
his faction, his admirers, and his panegyrists, among that numerous and
sober class of readers, who think that genius consists in good
intention.[49] In the Epilogue, Dryden attacks Collier, but with more
courteous weapons: it is rather a palliation than a defence of dramatic
immorality, and contains nothing personally offensive to Collier. Thus
so dearly was Dryden's preeminent reputation purchased, that even his
last hours were embittered with controversy; and nature, over-watched
and worn out, was, like a besieged garrison, forced to obey the call to
arms, and defend reputation even with the very last exertion of the
vital spirit.

The approach of death was not, however, so gradual as might have been
expected from the poet's chronic diseases. He had long suffered both by
the gout and gravel, and more lately the erysipelas seized one of his
legs. To a shattered frame and a corpulent habit, the most trifling
accident is often fatal. A slight inflammation in one of his toes,
became, from neglect, a gangrene. Mr. Hobbes, an eminent surgeon, to
prevent mortification, proposed to amputate the limb; but Dryden, who
had no reason to be in love with life, refused the chance of prolonging
it by a doubtful and painful operation.[50] After a short interval, the
catastrophe expected by Mr. Hobbes took place, and, Dryden not long
surviving the consequences, left life on Wednesday morning, 1st May
1700, at three o'clock. He seems to have been sensible till nearly his
last moments, and died in the Roman Catholic faith, with submission and
entire resignation to the divine will; "taking of his friends," says
Mrs. Creed, one of the sorrowful number, "so tender and obliging a
farewell, as none but he himself could have expressed."

The death of a man like Dryden, especially in narrow and neglected
circumstances, is usually an alarum-bell to the public. Unavailing and
mutual reproaches, for unthankful and pitiless negligence, waste
themselves in newspaper paragraphs, elegies, and funeral processions;
the debt to genius is then deemed discharged, and a new account of
neglect and commemoration is opened between the public and the next who
rises to supply his room. It was thus with Dryden: His family were
preparing to bury him with the decency becoming their limited
circumstances, when Charles Montague, Lord Jefferies, and other men of
quality, made a subscription for a public funeral. The body of the poet
was then removed to the Physicians' Hall, where it was embalmed, and lay
in state till the 13th day of May, twelve days after the decease. On
that day, the celebrated Dr. Garth pronounced a Latin oration over the
remains of his departed friend; which were then, with considerable
state, preceded by a band of music, and attended by a numerous
procession of carriages, transported to Westminster Abbey, and deposited
between the graves of Chaucer and Cowley.

The malice of Dryden's contemporaries, which he had experienced through
life, attempted to turn into burlesque these funeral honours. Farquhar,
the comic dramatist, wrote a letter containing a ludicrous account of
the funeral;[51] in which, as Mr. Malone most justly remarks, he only
sought to amuse his fair correspondent by an assemblage of ludicrous and
antithetical expressions and ideas, which, when accurately examined,
express little more than the bustle and confusion which attends every
funeral procession of uncommon splendour. Upon this ground-work, Mrs.
Thomas (the Corinna of Pope and Cromwell) raised, at the distance of
thirty years, the marvellous structure of fable, which has been copied
by all Dryden's biographers, till the industry of Mr. Malone has sent
it, with other figments of the same lady, to "the grave of all the
Capulets."[52] She appears to have been something assisted by a
burlesque account of the funeral, imputed by Mr. Malone to Tom Brown,
who certainly continued to insult Dryden's memory whenever an
opportunity offered.[53]  Indeed, Mrs. Thomas herself quotes this last
respectable authority. It must be a well-conducted and uncommon public
ceremony, where the philosopher can find nothing to condemn, nor the
satirist to ridicule; yet, to our imagination, what can be more
striking, than the procession of talent and rank, which escorted the
remains of DRYDEN to the tomb of CHAUCER!

The private character of the individual, his personal appearance, and
rank in society, are the circumstances which generally interest the
public most immediately upon his decease.

We are enabled, from the various paintings and engravings of Dryden, as
well as from the less flattering delineations of the satirists of his
time, to form a tolerable idea of his face and person. In youth, he
appears to have been handsome,[54] and of a pleasing countenance: when
his age was more advanced, he was corpulent and florid, which procured
him the nickname attached to him by Rochester.[55] In his latter days,
distress and disappointment probably chilled the fire of his eye, and
the advance of age destroyed the animation of his countenance.[56]
Still, however, his portraits bespeak the look and features of genius;
especially that in which he is drawn with his waving grey hairs.

In disposition and moral character, Dryden is represented as most
amiable, by all who had access to know him; and his works, as well as
letters, bear evidence to the justice of their panegyric. Congreve's
character of the poet was drawn doubtless favourably, yet it contains
points which demonstrate its fidelity.

"Whoever shall censure me, I dare be confident, you, my lord, will
excuse me for anything that I shall say with due regard to a gentleman,
for whose person I had as just an affection as I have an admiration of
his writings. And indeed Mr. Dryden had personal qualities to challenge
both love and esteem from all who were truly acquainted with him.

"He was of a nature exceedingly humane and compassionate; easily
forgiving injuries, and capable of a prompt and sincere reconciliation
with them who had offended him.

"Such a temperament is the only solid foundation of all moral virtues
and sociable endowments. His friendship, where he professed it, went
much beyond his professions; and I have been told of strong and generous
instances of it by the persons themselves who received them, though his
hereditary income was little more than a bare competency.

"As his reading had been very extensive, so was he very happy in a
memory, tenacious of everything that he had read. He was not more
possessed of knowledge, than he was communicative of it. But then his
communication of it was by no means pedantic, or imposed upon the
conversation; but just such, and went so far, as, by the natural turns
of the discourse in which he was engaged, it was necessarily promoted or
required. He was extreme ready and gentle in his correction of the
errors of any writer, who thought fit to consult him: and full as ready
and patient to admit of the reprehension of others, in respect of his
own oversight or mistakes. He was of very easy, I may say, of very
pleasing access; but something slow, and, as it were, diffident in his
advances to others. He had something in his nature, that abhorred
intrusion into any society whatsoever. Indeed, it is to be regretted,
that he was rather blameable in the other extreme; for, by that means,
he was personally less known, and, consequently, his character might
become liable both to misapprehensions and misrepresentations.

"To the best of my knowledge and observation, he was, of all the men
that I ever knew, one of the most modest, and the most easily to be
discountenanced in his approaches either to his superiors or his

This portrait is from the pen of friendship; yet, if we consider all the
circumstances of Dryden's life, we cannot deem it much exaggerated. For
about forty years, his character, personal and literary, was the object
of assault by every subaltern scribbler, titled or untitled, laureated
or pilloried. "My morals," he himself has said, "have been sufficiently
aspersed; that only sort of reputation, which ought to be dear to every
honest man, and is to me." In such an assault, no weapon would remain
unhandled, no charge, true or false, unurged; and what qualities we do
not there find excepted against, must surely be admitted to pass to the
credit of Dryden. His change of political opinion, from the time he
entered life under the protection of a favourite of Cromwell, might have
argued instability, if he had changed a second time, when the current of
power and popular opinion set against the doctrines of the Reformation.
As it is, we must hold Dryden to have acted from conviction, since
personal interest, had that been the ruling motive of his political
conduct, would have operated as strongly in 1688 as in 1660. The change
of his religion we have elsewhere discussed; and endeavoured to show
that, although Dryden was unfortunate in adopting the more corrupted
form of our religion, yet, considered relatively, it was a fortunate and
laudable conviction which led him from the mazes of scepticism to become
a catholic of the communion of Rome.[57] It would be vain to maintain,
that in his early career he was free from the follies and vices of a
dissolute period; but the absence of every positive charge, and the
silence of numerous accusers, may be admitted to prove, that he partook
in them more from general example than inclination, and with a moderate,
rather than voracious or undistinguishing appetite. It must be admitted,
that he sacrificed to the Belial or Asmodeus of the age, in his
writings; and that he formed his taste upon the licentious and gay
society with which he mingled. But we have the testimony of one who knew
him well, that, however loose his comedies, the temper of the author was
modest;[58] his indelicacy was like the forced impudence of a bashful
man; and Rochester has accordingly upbraided him, that his
licentiousness was neither natural nor seductive. Dryden had
unfortunately conformed enough to the taste of his age, to attempt that
"nice mode of wit," as it is termed by the said noble author, whose name
has become inseparably connected with it; but it sate awkwardly upon his
natural modesty, and in general sounds impertinent, as well as
disgusting. The clumsy phraseology of Burnet, in passing censure on the
immorality of the stage, after the Restoration, terms "Dryden, the
greatest master of dramatic poesy, a monster of immodesty and of
impurity of all sorts." The expression called forth the animated defence
of Granville, Lord Lansdowne, our author's noble friend. "All who knew
him," said Lansdowne, "can testify this was not his character. He was so
much a stranger to immodesty, that modesty in too great a degree was his
failing: he hurt his fortune by it, he complained of it, and never could
overcome it. He was," adds he, "esteemed, courted, and admired, by all
the great men of the age in which he lived, who would certainly not have
received into friendship a monster abandoned to all sorts of vice and
impurity. His writings will do immortal honour to his name and country,
and his poems last as long, if I may have leave to say it, as the
Bishop's sermons, supposing them to be equally excellent in their

The Bishop's youngest son, Thomas Burnet, in replying to Lord Lansdowne,
explained his father's last expressions as limited to Dryden's plays,
and showed, by doing so, that there was no foundation for fixing this
gross and dubious charge upon his private moral character.

Dryden's conduct as a father, husband, and master of a family, seems to
have been affectionate, faithful, and, so far as his circumstances
admitted, liberal and benevolent. The whole tenor of his correspondence
bears witness to his paternal feelings; and even when he was obliged to
have recourse to Tonson's immediate assistance to pay for the presents
he sent them, his affection vented itself in that manner. As a husband,
if Lady Elizabeth's peculiarities of temper precluded the idea of a warm
attachment, he is not upbraided with neglect or infidelity by any of his
thousand assailants. As a landlord, Mr. Malone has informed us, on the
authority of Lady Dryden, that "his little estate at Blakesley is at
this day occupied by one Harriots, grandson of the tenant who held it in
Dryden's time; and he relates, that his grandfather was used to take
great pleasure in talking of our poet. He was, he said, the easiest and
the kindest landlord in the world, and never raised the rent during the
whole time he possessed the estate."

Some circumstances, however, may seem to degrade so amiable a private,
so sublime a poetical character. The licence of his comedy, as we have
seen, had for it only the apology of universal example, and must be
lamented, though not excused. Let us, however, remember, that if in the
hey-day of the merry monarch's reign, Dryden ventured to maintain, that,
the prime end of poetry being pleasure, the muses ought not to be
fettered by the chains of strict decorum; yet in his more advanced and
sober mood, he evinced sincere repentance for his trespass, by patient
and unresisting submission to the coarse and rigorous chastisement of
Collier. If it is alleged, that, in the fury of his loyal satire, he was
not always solicitous concerning its justice, let us make allowance for
the prejudice of party, and consider at what advantage, after the laps
of more than a century, and through the medium of impartial history, we
now view characters, who were only known to their contemporaries as
zealous partisans of an opposite and detested faction. The moderation of
Dryden's reprisals, when provoked by the grossest calumny and personal
insult, ought also to plead in his favour. Of the hundreds who thus
assailed, not only his literary, but his moral reputation, he has
distinguished Settle and Shadwell alone by an elaborate retort. Those
who look into Mr. Luttrell's collections, will at once see the extent of
Dryden's sufferance, and the limited nature of his retaliation.

The extreme flattery of Dryden's dedications has been objected to him,
as a fault of an opposite description; and perhaps no writer has
equalled him in the profusion and elegance of his adulation. "Of this
kind of meanness," says Johnson, "he never seems to decline the
practice, or lament the necessity. He considers the great as entitled to
encomiastic homage, and brings praise rather as a tribute than a gift;
more delighted with the fertility of his invention than mortified by the
prostitution of his judgment." It may be noticed, in palliation of this
heavy charge, that the form of address to superiors must be judged of by
the manners of the times; and that the adulation contained in
dedications was then as much a matter of course, as the words of
submissive style which still precede the subscription Dryden considered
his panegyrics as merely conforming with the fashion of the day, and
rendering unto Caesar the things which were Caesar's,--attended with no
more degradation than the payment of any other tribute to the forms of
politeness and usage of the world.

Of Dryden's general habits of life we can form a distinct idea, from the
evidence assembled by Mr. Malone. His mornings were spent in study; he
dined with his family, probably about two o'clock. After dinner he went
usually to Will's Coffeehouse, the famous rendezvous of the wits of the
time, where he had his established chair by the chimney in winter, and
near the balcony in summer, whence he pronounced, _ex cathedra_, his
opinion upon new publications, and, in general, upon all matters of
dubious criticism.[60] Latterly, all who had occasion to ridicule or
attack him, represent him as presiding in this little senate.[61] His
opinions, however, were not maintained with dogmatism; and we have an
instance, in a pleasing anecdote told by Dr. Lockier,[62] that Dryden
readily listened to criticism, provided it was just, from whatever
unexpected and undignified quarter it happened to come. In general,
however, it may be supposed, that few ventured to dispute his opinion,
or place themselves of his censure. He was most falsely accused of
carrying literary jealousy to such a length, as feloniously to encourage
Creech to venture on a translation of Horace, that he might lose the
character he had gained by a version of Lucretius. But this is
positively contradicted, upon the authority of Southerne.[63]

We have so often stopped in our narrative of Dryden's life, to notice
the respectability of his general society, that little need here be said
on the subject. Although no enemy to conviviality, he is pronounced by
Pope to have been regular in his hours in comparison with Addison, who
otherwise lived the same coffee-house course of life. He has himself
told us, that he was "saturnine and reserved, and not one of those who
endeavour to entertain company by lively sallies of merriment and wit;"
and an adversary has put into his mouth this couplet--

  "Nor wine nor love could ever see me gay;
  To writing bred, I knew not what to say."

_Dryden's Satire to his Muse._

But the admission of the author, and the censure of the satirist, must
be received with some limitation. Dryden was thirty years old before he
was freed from the fetters of puritanism; and if the habits of lively
expression in society are not acquired before that age, they are seldom
gained afterward. But this applies only to the deficiency of repartee,
in the sharp encounter of wit which was fashionable at the court of
Charles, and cannot be understood to exclude Dryden's possessing the
more solid qualities of agreeable conversation, arising from a memory
profoundly stocked with knowledge, and a fancy which supplied modes of
illustration faster than the author could use them.[64] Some few sayings
of Dryden have been, however, preserved; which, if not witty, are at
least jocose. He is said to have been the original author of the
repartee to the Duke of Buckingham, who, in bowling, offered to lay "his
soul to a turnip," or something still more vile. "Give me the odds,"
said Dryden, "and I take the bet." When his wife wished to be a book,
that she might enjoy more of his company, "Be an almanac then, my dear,"
said the poet, "that I may change you once a year."[65] Another time, a
friend expressing his astonishment that even D'Urfey could write such
stuff as a play they had just witnessed, "Ah, sir," replied Dryden, "you
do not know my friend Tom so well as I do; I'll answer for him, he can
write worse yet." None of these anecdotes intimate great brilliancy of
repartee; but that Dryden, possessed of such a fund of imagination, and
acquired learning, should be dull in conversation, is impossible. He is
known frequently to have regaled his friends, by communicating to them a
part of his labours; but his poetry suffered by his recitation. He read
his productions very ill;[66] owing, perhaps, to the modest reserve of his
temper, which prevented his showing an animation in which he feared his
audience might not participate. The same circumstance may have repressed
the liveliness of his conversation. I know not, however, whether we are,
with Mr. Malone, to impute to diffidence his general habit of consulting
his literary friends upon his poems, before they became public, since it
might as well arise from a wish to anticipate and soften criticism.[67]

Of Dryden's learning, his works form the best proof. He had read
Polybius before he was ten years of age;[68] and was doubtless well
acquainted with the Greek and Roman classics. But from these studies he
could descend to read romances: and the present editor records with
pride, that Dryden was a decided admirer of old ballads and popular
tales.[69] His researches sometimes extended into the vain province of
judicial astrology, in which he was a firm believer; and there is reason
to think that he also credited divination by dreams. In the country, he
delighted in the pastime of fishing, and used, says Mr. Malone, to spend
some time with Mr. Jones of Ramsden, in Wiltshire. D'Urfey was sometimes
of this party; but Dryden appears to have undervalued his skill in
fishing, as much as his attempts at poetry. Hence Fenton, in his Epistle
to Mr. Lambard:

  "By long experience, D'Urfey may no doubt
  Ensnare a gudgeon, or sometimes a trout;
  Yet Dryden once exclaimed, in partial spite,
  '_He fish_!'--because the man attempts to write."

I may conclude this notice of Dryden's habits, which I have been enabled
to give chiefly by the researches of Mr. Malone, with two notices of a
minute nature. Dryden was a great taker of snuff, which he made himself.
Moreover, as a preparation to a course of study, he usually took
medicine, and observed a cooling diet.[70]

Dryden's house, which he appears to have resided in from the period of
his marriage till his death, was in Gerrard Street, the fifth on the
left hand coming from Little Newport Street.[71] The back windows looked
upon the gardens of Leicester House, of which circumstance our poet
availed himself to pay a handsome compliment to the noble owner.[72] His
excursions to the country seem to have been frequent; perhaps the more
so, as Lady Elizabeth always remained in town. In his latter days, the
friendship of his relations, John Driden of Chesterton, and Mrs. Steward
of Cotterstock, rendered their houses agreeable places of abode to the
aged poet. They appear also to have had a kind solicitude about his
little comforts, of value infinitely beyond aiding them. And thus
concludes all that we have learned of the private life of Dryden.

The fate of Dryden's family must necessarily interest the admirers of
English literature. It consisted of his wife, Lady Elizabeth Dryden, and
three sons, John, Charles, and Erasmus Henry. Upon the poet's death, it
may be believed, they felt themselves slenderly provided for, since all
his efforts, while alive, were necessary to secure them from the gripe
of penury.

Yet their situation was not very distressing. John and Erasmus Henry
were abroad; and each had an office at Rome, in which he was able to
support himself. Charles had for some time been entirely dependent on
his father, and administered to his effects, as he died without a will.
The liberality of the Duchess of Ormond, and of Driden of Chesterton,
had been lately received, and probably was not expended. There was,
besides, the poet's little patrimonial estate, and a small property in
Wiltshire, which the Earl of Berkshire settled upon Lady Elizabeth at
her marriage, and which yielded £50 or £60 annually. There was therefore
an income of about £100 a year, to maintain the poet's widow and
children; enough in these times to support them in decent frugality.

Lady Elizabeth Dryden's temper had long disturbed her husband's domestic
happiness. "His invectives," says Mr. Malone, "against the married state
are frequent and bitter, and were continued to the latest period of his
life;" and he adds, from most respectable authority, that the family of
the poet held no intimacy with his lady, confining their intercourse to
mere visits of ceremony.[73] A similar alienation seems to have taken
place between her and her own relations, Sir Robert Howard, perhaps,
being excepted; for her brother, the Honourable Edward Howard, talks of
Virgil, as a thing he had learned merely by common report.[74] Her
wayward disposition was, however, the effect of a disordered imagination
which, shortly after Dryden's death, degenerated into absolute insanity,
in which state she remained until her death in summer 1714, probably,
says Mr. Malone, in the seventy-ninth year of her life.

Dryden's three sons, says the inscription by Mrs. Creed, were ingenious
and accomplished gentlemen. Charles, the eldest, and favourite son of
the poet, was born at Charlton, Wiltshire, in 1666. He received a
classical education under Dr. Busby, his father's preceptor, and was
chosen King's Scholar in 1680. Being elected to Trinity College in
Cambridge, he was admitted a member in 1683. It would have been
difficult to conceive that the son of Dryden should not have attempted
poetry; but though Charles Dryden escaped the fate of Icarus, he was
very, very far from emulating his father's soaring flight. Mr. Malone
has furnished a list of his compositions in Latin and English.[75] About
1692, he went to Italy, and through the interest of Cardinal Howard, to
whom he was related by the mother's side, he became Chamberlain of the
Household; not, as Corinna pretends, "to that _remarkably fine
gentleman_, Pope Clement XI.," but to Pope Innocent XII. His way to this
preferment was smoothed by a pedigree drawn up in Latin by his father,
of the families of Dryden and Howard, which is said to have been
deposited in the Vatican. Dryden, whose turn for judicial astrology we
have noticed, had calculated the nativity of his son Charles; and it
would seem that a part of his predictions were fortuitously fulfilled.
Charles, however, having suffered, while at Rome, by a fall, and his
health, in consequence, being much injured, his father prognosticated he
would begin to recover in the month of September 1697. The issue did no
great credit to the prediction; for young Dryden returned to England in
1698 in the same indifferent state of health, as is obvious from the
anxious solicitude with which his father always mentions Charles in his
correspondence. Upon the poet's death, Charles, we have seen,
administered to his effects on 10th June 1700, Lady Elizabeth, his
mother, renouncing the succession. In the next year, Granville conferred
on him the profits arising from the author's night of an alteration of
Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice;" and his liberality to the son of one
great bard may be admitted to balance his presumption in manufacturing a
new drama out of the labours of another.[76] Upon the 20th August 1704,
Charles Dryden was drowned, in an attempt to swim across the Thames, at
Datchet, near Windsor. I have degraded into the Appendix, the romantic
narrative of Corinna, concerning his father's prediction, already
mentioned. It contains, like her account of the funeral of the poet,
much positive falsehood, and gross improbability, with some slight
scantling of foundation in fact.

John Dryden, the poet's second son, was born in 1667, or 1668, was
admitted a King's Scholar in Westminster in 1682, and elected to Oxford
in 1685. Here he became a private pupil of the celebrated Obadiah
Walker, Master of University College, a Roman Catholic. It seems
probable that young Dryden became a convert to that faith before his
father. His religion making it impossible for him to succeed in England,
he followed his brother Charles to Rome, where he officiated as his
deputy in the Pope's household. John Dryden translated the fourteenth
Satire of Juvenal, published in his father's version, and wrote a comedy
entitled, "The Husband his own Cuckold," acted in Lincoln's Inn Fields
in 1696; Dryden, the father, furnishing a prologue, and Congreve an
epilogue. In 1700-1, he made a tour through Sicily and Malta, and his
journal was published in 1706. It seems odd, that in the whole course of
his journal, he never mentions his father's name, nor makes the least
allusion to his very recent death. John Dryden, the younger, died at
Rome soon after this excursion.

Erasmus Henry, Dryden's third son, was born 2d May 1669, and educated in
the Charterhouse, to which he was nominated by Charles II., shortly
after the publication of "Absalom and Achitophel."[77] He does not
appear to have been at any university; probably his religion was the
obstacle. Like his brothers, he went to Rome; and as both his father and
mother request his prayers, we are to suppose he was originally destined
for the Church. But he became a Captain in the Pope's guards, and
remained at Rome till John Dryden, his elder brother's death. After this
event, he seems to have returned to England, and in 1708 succeeded to
the title of Baronet, as representative of Sir Erasmus Driden. the
author's grandfather. But the estate of Canons-Ashby, which should have
accompanied the title, had been devised by Sir Robert Driden, the poet's
first cousin, to Edward Dryden, the eldest son of Erasmus, the younger
brother of the poet. Thus, if the author had lived a few years longer,
his pecuniary embarrassments would have been embittered by his
succeeding to the honours of his family, without any means of sustaining
the rank they gave him. With this Edward Dryden, Sir Erasmus Henry seems
to have resided until his death, which took place at the family mansion
of Canons-Ashby in 1710. Edward acted as a manager of his cousin's
affairs; and Mr. Malone sees reason to think, from their mode of
accounting, that Sir Erasmus Henry had, like his mother, been visited
with mental derangement before his death, and had resigned into Edward's
hands the whole management of his concerns. Thus ended the poet's
family, none of his sons surviving him above ten years. The estate of
Canons-Ashby became again united to the title, in the person of John
Dryden, the surviving brother.[78]


[1] Such, I understand, is the general purport of some letters of
Dryden's, in possession of the Dorset family, which contain certain
particulars rendering them unfit for publication. Our author himself
commemorates Dorset's generosity in the Essay on Satire, in the
following affecting passage: "Though I must ever acknowledge to the
honour of your lordship, and the eternal memory of your charity, that
since this Revolution, wherein I have patiently suffered the ruin of my
small fortune, and the loss of that poor subsistence which I had from
two kings, whom I had served more faithfully than profitably to myself--
then your lordship was pleased, out of no other motive but your own
nobleness, without any desert of mine, or the least solicitation from
me, to make me a most bountiful present, which at that time, when I was
most in want of it, came most seasonably and unexpectedly to my relief.
That favour, my lord, is of itself sufficient to bind any grateful man
to a perpetual acknowledgment, and to all the future service which one
of my mean condition can be ever able to perform. May the Almighty God
return it for me, both in blessing you here, and rewarding you
hereafter!"--_Essay on Satire_, vol. xiii.

[2] So says Ward, in the London Spy.

[3] "Dryden, though my near relation," says Swift, "is one whom I have
often blamed, as well as pitied." Mr. Malone traces their consanguinity
to Swift's grandmother, Elizabeth Dryden, being the daughter of a
brother of Sir Erasmus Driden, the poet's grandfather; so that the Dean
of St. Patrick's was the son of Dryden's second cousin, which, in
Scotland, would even yet be deemed a near relation. The passages in
prose and verse, in which Swift reflects on Dryden, are various. He
mentions, in his best poem, "The Rhapsody,"

         "The prefaces of Dryden,
  For these our cities much confide in,
  Though merely writ at first for filling,
  To raise the volume's price a shilling."

He introduces Dryden in "The Battle of the Books," with a most
irreverent description; and many of the brilliant touches in the
following assumed character of a hack author, are directed against our
poet. The malignant allusions to merits, to sufferings, to changes of
opinion, to political controversies, and a peaceful consciences, cannot
be mistaken. The piece was probably composed _flagrante odio_, for it
occurs in the Introduction to "The Tale of a Tub," which was written
about 1692. "These notices may serve to give the learned reader an idea,
as well as taste, of what the whole work is likely to produce, wherein I
have now altogether circumscribed my thoughts and my studies; and, if I
can bring it to a perfection before I die, I shall reckon I have well
employed the poor remains of an unfortunate life. This indeed is more
than I can justly expect, from a quill worn to the pith in the service
of the state, in _pros_ and _cons_ upon popish plots, and meal tubs, and
exclusion bills, and passive obedience, and addresses of lives and
fortunes, and prerogative, and property and liberty of conscience, and
letters to a friend: from an understanding and a conscience, threadbare
and ragged with perpetual turning; from a head broken in a hundred
places by the malignants of the opposite factions; and from a body spent
with poxes ill cured, by trusting to bawds and surgeons, who, as it
afterwards appeared, were professed enemies to me and the government,
and revenged their party's quarrel upon my nose and shins. Fourscore and
eleven pamphlets have I written under three reigns, and for the service
of six and thirty factions. But finding the state has no farther
occasion for me and my ink, I retire willingly to draw it out into
speculations more becoming a philosopher; having, to my unspeakable
comfort, passed a long life with a conscience void of offence." [See
Appendix, vol. xviii., art. "Dryden and Swift."--ED.]

[4] [The exact sentence seems to have been "a Pindaric poet." But as
Swift had tried nothing but Pindarics, it was nearly if not quite as
severe as the more usually quoted and more sweeping verdict.--ED.]

[5] Robert Gould, author of that scandalous lampoon against Dryden,
entitled "The Laureat," inscribes his collection of poems, printed
1688-9, to the Earl of Abingdon; and it contains some pieces addressed
to him and to his lady. He survived also to compose, on the Earl's
death, in 1700, "The Mourning Swan," an eclogue to his memory, in which
a shepherd gives the following account of the proximate cause of that

  "_Menaleus_. To tell you true (whoe'er it may displease),
  He died of the _Physician_--a disease
  That long has reigned, and eager of renown,
  More than a plague depopulates the town.
  Inflamed with wine, and blasting at a breath,
  All its _prescriptions_ are receipts for death.
  Millions of mischiefs by its rage are wrought,
  Safe where 'tis fled, but barbarous where 'tis sought;
  A cursed ingrateful ill, that called to aid,
  Is still most fatal where it best is paid."

[6] How far this was necessary, the reader may judge from Mirana, a
funeral eclogue; sacred to the memory of that excellent lady, Eleonora,
late Countess of Abingdon, 1691, 4th Aug., which concludes with the
following singular _imprecation_:

  "Hear, friend, my sacred imprecation hear,
  And let both of us kneel, and both be bare.
  Doom me (ye powers) to misery and shame,
  Let mine be the most ignominious name,
  Let me, each day, be with new griefs perplext,
  Curst in this life, nor blessed in the next,
  If I believe the like of her survives,
  Or if I think her not the best of mothers, and of wives."

[7] 30th August 1693, Dryden writes to Tonson, "I am sure you thought my
Lord Radclyffe would have done something; I guessed more truly, that he
could not."--Vol. xviii. The expression perhaps applies rather to his
lordship's want of ability than inclination; and Dryden says indeed, in
the dedication, that it is in his nature to be an encourager of good
poets, though fortune has not yet put into his hands the power of
expressing it. In a letter to Mrs. Steward, Dryden speaks of Ratcliffe
as a poet, "and none of the best."--Vol. xviii.

[8] Vol. xviii.

[9] Copied from the Chandos picture. Kneller's copy is now at Wentworth
House, the seat of Earl Fitzwilliam.

[10]  The antiquary may now search in vain for this frail memorial; for
the house of Chesterton was, 1807, pulled down for the sake of the

[11] The exact pecuniary arrangements for the Virgil are a matter of
much dispute, almost every biographer taking a different view. It seems
most probable that the payment was fifty pounds per two books, not fifty
for each. The point will be more fully discussed on the letters dealing
with the subject.--Ed.

[12] This gave rise to a good epigram:

   "Old Jacob, by deep judgment swayed,
     To please the wise beholders,
   Has placed old Nassau's hook-nosed head
    On poor Aeneas' shoulders.

   To make the parallel hold tack,
     Methinks there's little lacking;
   One took his father pick-a-pack,
     And t'other sent his packing."

[13] "I am of your opinion," says the poet to his son Charles, "that, by
Tonson's means, almost all our letters have miscarried for this last
year. But, however, he has missed of his design in the dedication,
though he had prepared the book for it; for, in every figure of Aeneas,
he has caused him to be drawn, like King William, with a hooked nose."
Dryden hints to Tonson himself his suspicion of this unworthy device,
desiring him to forward a letter to his son Charles, but not by post.
"Being satisfied, that Ferrand will do by this as he did by two letters
which I sent my sons, about my dedicating to the king, of which they
received neither."--Vol. xviii.

[14] Johnson's "Life of Dryden."

[15] [Professor Masson calculates, apparently on good grounds, that
Simmons probably made about five or six times what he paid. This, in not
much more than a year, cannot be considered a bad trade return; but the
sale price of "Paradise Lost" seems to provoke unfounded commonplaces
from even the most unexpected sources.--ED.]

[16] "I confess to have been somewhat liberal in the business of titles,
having observed the humour of multiplying them, to bear great vogue
among certain writers, whom I exceedingly reverence. And indeed it seems
not unreasonable that books, the children of the brain, should have the
honour to be christened with variety of names, as well as other infants
of quality. Our famous Dryden has ventured to proceed a point farther,
endeavouring to introduce also a multiplicity of godfathers; which is an
improvement of much more advantage, upon a very obvious account. It is a
pity this admirable invention has not been better cultivated, so as to
grow by this time into general imitation, when such an authority serves
it for a precedent. Nor have my endeavours been wanting to second so
useful an example: but, it seems, there is an unhappy expense usually
annexed to the calling of a godfather, which was clearly out of my head,
as it is very reasonable to believe. Where the pinch lay, I cannot
certainly affirm; but, having employed a world of thoughts and pains to
split my treatise into forty sections, and having entreated forty lords
of my acquaintance, that they would do me the honour to stand, they all
made it a matter of conscience, and sent me their excuses."

[17] Besides the notes on Virgil, he wrote many single sermons, and a
metrical version of the psalms, and died in 1720.

[18] He is described as a rake in "The Pacificator," a poem bought by
Mr. Luttrell, 15th Feb. 1699-1700, which gives an account of a supposed
battle between the men of wit and men of sense, as the poet calls them:

  "M----n, a renegade from wit, came on,
  And made a false attack, and next to none;
  The hypocrite, in sense, could not conceal
  What pride, and want of brains, obliged him to reveal.
  In him, the critic's ruined by the poet,
  And Virgil gives his testimony to it.
  The troops of wit were so enraged to see
  This priest invade his own fraternity,
  They sent a party out, by silence led,
  And, without answer, shot the turn-coat dead.
  The priest, the rake, the wit, strove all in vain,
  For there, alas! he lies among the slain.
  _Memento mori_; see the consequence,
  When rakes and wits set up for men of sense."

[19] This, Mr. Malone has proved by the following extract from Motteux's
"Gentleman's Journal." "That best of poets (says Motteux) having so long
continued a stranger to tolerable English, Mr. Milbourne pitied his hard
fate; and seeing that several great men had undertaken some episodes of
his Aeneis, without any design of Englishing the whole, he gave us the
first book of it some years ago, with a design to go through the poem.
It was the misfortune of that first attempt to appear just about the
time of the late Revolution, when few had leisure to mind such books;
yet, though by reason of his absence, it was printed with a world of
faults, those that are sufficient judges have done it the justice to
esteem it a very successful attempt, and cannot but wish that he would
complete the entire translation."--_Gent. Journ._ for August 1692.

[20] See the Preface to "A Funeral Idyll, sacred to the glorious Memory
of King William III.," by Mr. Oldmixon.

"In the Idyll on the peace, I made the first essay to throw off rhymes,
and the kind reception that poem met with, has encouraged me to attempt
it again. I have not been persuaded by my friends to change the Idyll
into Idyllium; for having an English word set me by Mr. Dryden, which he
uses indifferently with the Greek, I thought it might be as proper in an
English poem. I shall not be solicitous to justify myself to those who
except against his authority, till they produce me a better: I have
heard him blamed for his innovations and coining of words, even by
persons who have already been sufficiently guilty of the fault they lay
to his charge; and shown us what we are to expect from them, were their
names as well settled as his. If I had qualifications enough to do it
successfully, I should advise them to write more naturally, delicately,
and reasonably themselves, before they attack Mr. Dryden's reputation;
and to think there is something more necessary to make a man write well,
than the favour of the great, or the success of a faction. We have every
year seen how fickle Fortune has been to her declared favourites; and
men of merit, as well as he who has none, have suffered by her
inconstancy, as much as they got by her smiles. This should alarm such
as are eminently indebted to her, and may be of use to them in their
future reflections on others' productions, not to assume too much to
themselves from her partiality to them, lest, when they are left like
their predecessor, it should only serve to render them the more

[21] "Homer in a Nutshell," (16th Feb.) 1700-9, by Samuel Parker, Gent.

"_Preface_.--Ever since I caught some termagant ones in a club,
undervaluing our new translation of Virgil, I've known both what opinion
I ought to harbour, and what use to make of them; and since the
opportunity of a digression so luckily presents itself, I shall make
bold to ask the gentlemen their sentiments of two or three lines (to
pass over a thousand other instances) which they may meet with in that
work. The fourth Aeneid says of Dido, after certain effects of her
taking shelter with Aeneas in the cave appear,

  _Conjuijium vocat, hoc proetexit lomine culpam,_   V. 172,

which Mr. Dryden renders thus:

  She called it marriage, by that specious name
  To veil the crime, and sanctify the shame.

Nor had he before less happily rendered the 39th verse of the second

  _Scinditur in certum studia in contraria vulgus._

  The giddy vulgar, as their fancies guide,
  With noise, say nothing, and in parts divide.

"If these are the lines which they call flat and spiritless, I wish mine
could be flat and spiritless too! And, therefore, to make short work, I
shall only beg Mr. Dryden's leave to congratulate him upon his admirable
flatness, and dulness, in a rapture of poetical indignation:

  Then dares the poring critic snarl? And dare
  The[21a] puny brats of Momus threaten war?
  And can't the proud perverse Arachne's fate
  Deter the[21a] mongrels e'er it prove too late?
  In vain, alas! we warn the[21a] hardened brood;
  In vain expect they'll ever come to good.
  No: they'd conceive more venom if they could.
  But let each[21a] viper at his peril bite,
  While you defy the most ingenious spite.
  So Parian columns, raised with costly care,
  [21a] Vile snails and worms may daub, yet not impair,
  While the tough titles, and obdurate rhyme,
  Fatigue the busy grinders of old Time.
  Not but your Maro justly may complain,
  Since your translation ends his ancient reign,
  And but by your officious muse outvied,
  That vast immortal name had never died.

"[21a] I desire these appellations may not seem to affect the parties
concerned, any otherwise than as to their character of critics."

[22] Preface to the Fables, vol. xi.

[23] See several extracts from these poems in the Appendix, vol. xviii.,
which I have thrown together to show how much Dryden was considered as
sovereign among the poets of the time.

[24] This I learn from _Honori Sacellum_, a Funeral Poem, to the Memory
of William, Duke of Devonshire, 1707:

  "'Twas so, when the destroyer's dreadful dart
  Once pierced through ours, to fair Maria's heart.
  From his state-helm then some short hours he stole,
  T'indulge his melting eyes, and bleeding soul:
  Whilst his bent knees, to those remains divine,
  Paid their last offering to that royal shrine."

On which lines occurs this explanatory note:--"An Ode, composed by His
Grace, on the death of the late Queen Mary, justly adjudged by the
ingenious Mr. Dryden to have exceeded all that had been written on that

[25] Dr. Birch refers to the authority of Richard Graham, junior; but no
such letter has been recovered.

[26] The authority, however respectable, has a very long chain of links.
Warton heard it from A, who heard it from B, who heard it from Pope, who
heard it from Bolingbroke.--Ed.

[27] This discovery was made by the researches of Mr. Malone. Dr. Burney
describes Clarke as excelling in the tender and plaintive, to which he
was prompted by a temperament of natural melancholy. In the agonies
which arose from an unfortunate attachment, he committed suicide in July
1707. See a full account of the catastrophe in Malone's "Life of
Dryden," p. 299.

[28] It was first performed on February 19, 1735-6, at opera prices.
"The public expectations and the effects of this representation (says
Dr. Burney) seem to have been correspondent, for the next day we are
told in the public papers [London Daily Post, and General Advertiser,
Feb. 20,] that 'there never was, upon the like occasion, so numerous and
splendid an audience at any theatre in London, there being at least
thirteen hundred persons present; and it is judged that the receipts of
the house could not amount to less than £450. It met with general
applause, though attended with the inconvenience of having the
performers placed at too great a distance from the audience, which we
hear will be rectified the next time of performance."--_Hist. of Music_,
iv. 391.

[29] See vol. xviii.

[30]   "Thine be the laurel, then; thy blooming age
  Can best, if any can, support the stage,
  Which to declines, that shortly we may see
  Players and plays reduced to second infancy.
  Sharp to the world, but thoughtless of renown,
  They plot not on the stage, but on the town;
  And in despair their empty pit to fill,
  Set up some foreign monster in a bill:
  Thus they jog on, still tricking, never thriving,
  And murth'ring plays, which they miscall--reviving.
  Our sense is nonsense, through their pipes conveyed;
  Scarce can a poet know the play he made,
  'Tis so disguised in death; nor thinks 'tis he
  That suffers in the mangled tragedy:
  Thus Itys first was killed, and after dressed
  For his own sire, the chief invited guest."

This gave great offence to the players; one of whom (Powell) made a
petulant retort, which the reader will find in a note upon the Epistle
itself, vol. xi.

[31] Milbourne, in a note on that passage in the dedication to the
Aeneid--"_He who can write well in rhyme, may write better in blank
verse_," says,--"We shall know that, when we see how much better
Dryden's Homer will be than his Virgil."

[32]  "Much the same character he gave of it (_i.e._  Paradise Lost) to
a north-country gentleman, to whom I mentioned the book, he being a
great reader, but not in a right train, coming to town seldom, and
keeping little company. Dryden amazed him with speaking so loftily of
it. 'Why, Mr. Dryden, says he (Sir W.L. told me the thing himself), 'tis
not in rhyme.' 'No, [replied Dryden;] _nor would I have done_ Virgil
_in rhyme, if I was to begin it again._'"--This conversation is supposed
by Mr. Malone to have been held with Sir Wilfrid Lawson, of Isell in

[33] See a letter to Mrs. Thomas, vol. xviii.

[34] "Some of these poets, to excuse their guilt, allege for themselves,
that the degeneracy of the age makes their lewd way of writing
necessary: they pretend the auditors will not be pleased, unless they
are thus entertained from the stage; and to please, they say, is the
chief business of the poet. But this is by no means a just apology: it
is not true, as was said before, that the poet's chief business is to
please. His chief business is to instruct, to make mankind wiser and
better; and in order to this, his care should be to please and entertain
the audience with all the wit and art he is master of. Aristotle and
Horace, and all their critics and commentators all men of wit and sense
agree, that this is the end of poetry. But they say, it is their
profession to write for the stage; and that poets must starve, if they
will not in this way humour the audience: the theatre will be as
unfrequented as the churches, and the poet and the parson equally
neglected. Let the poet then abandon his profession, and take up some
honest lawful calling, where, joining industry to his great wit, he may
soon get above the complaints of poverty, so common among these
ingenious men, and lie under no necessity of prostituting his wit to any
such vile purposes as are here censured. This will-be a course of life
more profitable and honourable to himself, and more useful to others.
And there are among these writers _some, who think they might have risen
to the highest dignities in other professions, had they employed their
wit in those ways._ It is a mighty dishonour and reproach to any man
that is capable of being useful to the world in any _liberal and
virtuous_ profession, _to lavish out his life and wit in propagating
vice and corruption of manners_, and in battering from the stage the
strongest entrenchments and best works of religion and virtue. Whoever
makes this his choice, when the other was in his power, may he go off
the stage unpitied, _complaining of neglect and poverty, the just
punishments of his irreligion and folly!_"

[35]  Mr. Malone conceives, that the Fables were published before the
"Satire upon Wit;" but he had not this evidence of the contrary before
him. It is therefore clear, that Dryden endured a second attack from
Blackmore, before making any reply.

[36]  Since Scott wrote, the Collier-Congreve controversy has been the
subject of well-known essays by Lamb, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, and Macaulay.
Very recently a fresh and excellent account of Collier's book has
appeared in M.A. Beljame's _Le Public et les Hommes de Lettres en
Angleterre au xviiième siecle_ (Paris: Hachette, 1881), a remarkable
volume, to which, and to its author, I owe much.--Ed.

[37] In his apology for "The Tale of a Tub," he points out to the
resentment of the clergy, "those heavy illiterate scribblers, prostitute
in their reputations, vicious in their lives, and ruined in their
fortunes, who, to the shame of good sense, as well as piety, are
greedily read, merely upon the strength of bold, false, impious
assertions, mixed with unmannerly reflections on the priesthood." And,
after no great interval, he mentions the passage quoted, p. 375 "in
which Dryden, L'Estrange, and some others I shall not name, are levelled
at; who, having spent their lives in faction, and apostasies, and all
manner of vice, pretended to be sufferers for loyalty and religion. So
Dryden tells us, in one of his prefaces, of his merits and sufferings,
and thanks God that he possesses his soul in patience. In other places
he talks at the same rate."

[38] Vol. xviii.

[39] Thus in a lampoon already quoted (footnote 29, Section VI)

  "Quitting my duller hopes, the poor renown
   Of Eton College, or a Dublin gown."

 Tom Brown makes the charge more directly. "But, prithee, why so severe
always on the priesthood, Mr. Bayes? What have they merited to pull down
your indignation? I thought the ridiculing men of that character upon
the stage, was by this time a topic as much worn out with you, as love
and honour in the play, or good fulsome flattery in the dedication. But
you, I find, still continue your old humour, to date from the year of
Hegira, the loss of Eton, or since orders were refused you. Whatever
hangs out, either black or green colours is presently your prize: and
you would, by your good will, be as mortifying a vexation to the whole
tribe, as an unbegetting year, a concatenation of briefs, or a voracious
visitor; so that I am of opinion, you had much better have written in
your title-page,

                           Manet alta mente repostum
  Judicium _Cleri_, spretaeque injuria _Musoe_."

The same reproach is urged by Settle. See vol. ix.

[40] Vol. xviii. [The _Diary_ had not been deciphered when Scott wrote.

[41] There was, to be sure, in the provoking scruples of that rigid
sect, something peculiarly tempting to a satirist. How is it possible to
forgive Baxter, for the affectation with which he records the enormities
of his childhood?

"Though my conscience," says he, "would trouble me when I sinned, yet
divers sins I was addicted to, and oft committed against my conscience,
which, for the warning of others, I will here confess to my shame. I was
much addicted to the _excessive gluttonous eating of apples and pears_,
which I think laid the foundation of the imbecility and flatulency of my
stomach, which caused the bodily calamities of my life. To this end, and
to concur with naughty boys that gloried in evil, I have oft gone into
other men's orchards, and stolen the fruit, when I had enough at home."
There are six other retractions of similar enormities, when he
concludes: "These were my sins in my childhood, as to which, conscience
troubled me for a great while before they were overcome." Baxter was a
pious and worthy man; but can any one read this confession without
thinking of Tartuffe, who subjected himself to penance for killing a
flea, with too much anger?

[42] See vol. xviii. Mr. Malone thinks tradition has confounded a
present made to the poet himself probably of £100, with a legacy
bequeathed to his son Charles, which last did amount to £500, but which
Charles lived not to receive.

[43] She is distinguished for beauty and virtue, by the author of "The
Court at Kensington." 1699-1700.

  "So Ormond's graceful mien attracts all eyes,
  And nature needs not ask from art supplies;
  An heir of grandeur shines through every part,
  And in her beauteous form is placed the noblest heart:
  In vain mankind adore, unless she were
  By Heaven made less virtuous, or less fair."

[44] Gildon, in his "Comparison between the Stages."--"Nay then," says
the whole party at Drury-lane, "we'll even put 'The Pilgrim' upon him."
"Ay, 'faith, so we will," says Dryden: "and if you'll let my son have
the profits of the third night, I'll give you a Secular Masque." "Done,"
says the House; and so the bargain was struck.

[45] _i.e._ Upon the 25th March 1700; it being supposed (as by many in
our own time) that the century was concluded so soon as the hundredth
year commenced; as if a play was ended at the _beginning of the fifth

[46] It was again set by Dr. Boyce, and in 1749 performed in the
Drury-lane theatre, with great success.

[47] By a letter to Mrs. Steward, dated the 11th April 1700, it appears
they were then only in his contemplation, and the poet died upon the
first of the succeeding month. Vol. xviii.

  "Quick Maurus, though he never took degrees
  In either of our universities,
  Yet to be shown by Rome kind wit he looks,
  Because he played the fool, and writ three books.
  But if he would be worth a poet's pen,
  He must be more a fool, and write again:
  For all the former fustian stuff he wrote
  Was dead-born doggrel, or is quite forgot;
  His man of Uz, stript of his Hebrew robe,
  Is just the proverb, and 'As poor as Job.'
  One would have thought he could no longer jog;
  But Arthur was a level, Job's a bog.
  _There_ though he crept, yet still he kept in sight;
  But _here_ he founders in, and sinks downright.
  Had he prepared us, and been dull by rule,
  Tobit had first been turned to ridicule;
  But our bold Briton, without fear or awe,
  O'erleaps at once the whole Apocrypha;
  Invades the Psalms with rhymes, and leaves no room
  For any Vandal Hopkins yet to come.
  But when, if, after all, this godly gear
  Is not so senseless as it would appear,
  Our mountebank has laid a deeper train;
  His cant, like Merry Andrew's noble vein,
  Cat-calls the sects to draw them in again.
  At leisure hours in epic song he deals,
  Writes to the rumbling of his coach's wheels;
  Prescribes in haste, and seldom kills by rule,
  But rides triumphant between stool and stool.
  Well, let him go,--'tis yet too early day
  To get himself a place in farce or play;
  We know not by what name we should arraign him,
  For no one category can contain him.
  A pedant,--canting preacher,--and a quack,
  Are load enough to break an ass's back.
  At last, grown wanton, he presumed to write,
  Traduced two kings, their kindness to requite;
  One made the doctor, and one dubbed the knight."

[49] One of these well-meaning persons insulted the ashes of Dryden
while they were still warm, in "An Epistle to Sir Richard Blackmore,
occasioned by the New Session of the Poets." Marked by Mr. Luttrell, 1st
November 1700.

  "His mighty Dryden to the shades is gone,
  And Congreve leaves successor of his throne:
  Though long before his final exit hence,
  He was himself an abdicated Prince;
  Disrobed of all regalities of state,
  Drawn by a hind and panther from his seat.
  Heir to his plays, his fables, and his tales,
  Congreve is the poetic prince of Wales;
  Not at St. Germains, but at Will's, his court,
  Whither the subjects of his dad resort;
  Where plots are hatched, and councils yet unknown,
  How young Ascanius may ascend the throne,
  That in despite of all the Muses' laws,
  He may revenge his injured father's cause,
  Go, nauseous rhymers, into darkness go,
  And view your monarch in the shades below,
  Who takes not now from Helicon his drink,
  But sips from Styx a liquor black as ink;
  Like Sisyphus a restless stone he turns,
  And in a pile of his own labours burns;
  Whose curling flames most ghastly fiends do raise,
  Supplied with fuel from his impious plays;
  And when he fain would puff away the flame,
  One stops his mouth with bawdy Limberham;
  There, to augment the terrors of the place,
  His Hind and Panther stare him in the face;
  They grin like devils at the cursed toad,
  Who made [them] draw on earth so vile a load.
  Could some infernal painter draw the sight,
  And once transmit it to the realms of light,
  It might our poets from their sins affright;
  Or could they hear, how there the sons of verse
  In dismal yells their tortures do express;
  How scorched with ballads on the Stygian shore,
  They horrors in a dismal chorus roar;
  Or see how the laureate does his grandeur bear,
  Crowned with a wreath of flaming sulphur there.
  This, sir, 's your fate, cursed critics you oppose,
  The most tyrannical and cruel foes;
  Dryden, their huntsman dead, no more he wounds,
  But now you must engage his pack of hounds."

[50] According to Ward, his expressions were, "that he was an old man,
and had not long to live by course of nature, and therefore did not care
to part with one limb, at such an age, to preserve an uncomfortable life
on the rest."--_London Spy_, Part xviii.

[51] "I come now from Mr. Dryden's funeral, where we had an Ode in
Horace sung, instead of David's Psalms; whence you may find, that we
don't think a poet worth Christian burial. The pomp of the ceremony was
a kind of rhapsody, and fitter, I think, for Hudibras, than him; because
the cavalcade was mostly burlesque: but he was an extraordinary man, and
buried after an extraordinary fashion; for I do believe there was never
such another burial seen. The oration, indeed, was great and ingenious,
worthy the subject, and like the author; whose prescriptions can restore
the living, and his pen embalm the dead. And so much for Mr. Dryden;
whose burial was the same as his life,--variety, and not of a piece:--
the quality and mob, farce and heroics; the sublime and ridicule mixed
in a piece;--great Cleopatra in a hackney coach."

[52] Those who wish to peruse this memorable romance may find it in vol.
xviii. It was first published in Wilson's "Life of Congreve," 1730. Mr.
Malone has successfully shown that it is false in almost all its parts;
for, independently of the extreme improbability of the whole story, it
is clear, from Ward's account, written at the time, that Lord Jefferies,
who it is pretended interrupted the funeral, did, in fact, largely
contribute to it. This also appears from a paragraph, in a letter from
Doctor afterwards Bishop Tanner, dated May 6th, 1700, and thus given by
Mr. Malone:--"Mr. Dryden died a papist, if at all a Christian. Mr.
Montague had given orders to bury him; but some lords (my Lord Dorset,
Jefferies, etc.), thinking it would not be splendid enough, ordered him
to be carried to Russel's: there he was embalmed; and now lies in state
at the Physicians' College, and is to be buried with Chaucer, Cowley,
etc., at Westminster Abbey, on Monday next."--_MSS. Ballard. in Bibl.
Bodl._ vol. iv. p. 29.

[53] The following lines are given by Mr. Malone as a specimen:--

  "Before the hearse the mourning hautboys go,
  And screech a dismal sound of grief and woe:
  More dismal notes from bog-trotters may fall,
  More dismal plaints at Irish funeral;
  But no such floods of tears e'er stopped our tide,
  Since Charles, the martyr and the monarch, died.
  The decency and order first describe,
  Without regard to either sex or tribe.
  The sable coaches led the dismal van,
  But by their side, I think, few footmen ran;
  Nor needed these; the rabble fill the streets,
  And mob with mob in great disorder meets.
  See next the coaches, how they are accouter'd,
  Both in the inside, eke and on the outward:
  One p----y spark, one sound as any roach,
  One poet and two fiddlers in a coach:
  The playhouse drab, that beats the beggar's bush,
         *       *       *       *       *
  By everybody kissed, good truth,--but such is
  Now her good fate, to ride with mistress Duchess.
  Was e'er immortal poet thus buffooned!
  In a long line of coaches thus lampooned!"

[54] [Transcriber's note: "Page 73" in original. See Footnote 14,
Section II.]

[55] [Transcriber's note: "'Poet Squab,' p. 215" in original. See
Footnote 14, Section V.]

[56] From "Epigrams on the Paintings of the most eminent Masters," by
J.E. (John Elsum), Esq., 8vo, 1700, Mr. Malone gives the following

  The Effigies of Mr. Dryden, by Closterman,
  _Epig_. clxiv.

  "A sleepy eye he shows, and no sweet feature,
  Yet was indeed a favourite of nature:
  Endowed and graced with an exalted mind,
  With store of wit, and that of every kind.
  Juvenal's tartness, Horace's sweet air,
  With Virgil's force, in him concentered were.
  But though the painter's art can never show it,
  That his exemplar was so great a poet,
  Yet are the lines and tints so subtly wrought,
  You may perceive he was a man of thought.
  Closterman, 'tis confessed, has drawn him well,
  But short of Absalom and Achitophel."

[57] [Transcriber's note: "See pages 258-261" in original. This
corresponds to the discussion on Dryden's conversion to Catholicism,
Section VI.]

[58] A correspondent of the Gentleman's Magazine, in 1745, already
quoted, says of him as a personal acquaintance: "Posterity is absolutely
mistaken as to that great man: though forced to be a satirist, he was
the mildest creature breathing, and the readiest to help the young and
deserving. Though his comedies are horribly full of _double entendre_,
yet 'twas owing to a false complaisance. He was, in company, the
modestest man that ever conversed."

[59] Letter to the author of "Reflections Historical and Political."
4to, 1732.

[60] See vol. xi.; vol. xviii. From the poem in the passage last quoted,
it seems that the original sign of Will's Coffee-house had been a _cow._
It was changed however, to a _rose_, in Dryden's time. This wit's
coffeehouse was situated at the end of Bow-street, on the north side of
Russel-street, and frequented by all who made any pretence to
literature, or criticism. Their company, it would seem, was attended
with more honour than profit; for Dennis describes William Envin, or
Urwin, who kept the house, as taking refuge in White-friars, then a
place of asylum, to escape the clutches of his creditors. "For since the
law," says the critic, "thought it just to put Will out of its
protection, Will thought it but prudent to put himself out of its

[61] See Appendix, vol. xviii.; vol. xi.

[62] The Dean of Peterborough. "I was," says he, "about seventeen, when
I first came to town; an odd-looking boy, with short rough hair, and
that sort of awkwardness which one always brings out of the country with
one: however, in spite of my bashfulness and appearance, I used now and
then to thrust myself into Will's, to have the pleasure of seeing the
most celebrated wits of that time, who used to resort thither. The
second time that ever I was there, Mr. Dryden was speaking of his own
things, as he frequently did, especially of such as had been lately
published. If anything of mine is good (says he), 'tis my Mac-Flecknoe;
and I value myself the more on it, because it is the first piece of
ridicule written in heroics.' Lockier overhearing this, plucked up his
spirit so far, as to say, in a voice just loud enough to be heard, that
Mac-Flecknoe was a very fine poem, but that he had not imagined it to be
the first that ever was wrote that way. On this Dryden turned short upon
him, as surprised at his interposing; asked him how long he had been a
dealer in poetry; and added, with a smile,--'But pray, sir, what is it,
that you did imagine to have been writ so before?' Lockier named
Boileau's Lutrin, and Tassoni's Secchia Rapita; which he had read, and
knew Dryden had borrowed some strokes from each. ''Tis true,' says
Dryden;--'I had forgot them.' A little after, Dryden went out, and in
going spoke to Lockier again, and desired him to come to him the next
day. Lockier was highly delighted with the invitation, and was well
acquainted with him as long as he lived."--MALONE, vol. i. p. 481.

[63] "I have often heard," says Mr. George Russell, "that Mr. Dryden,
dissatisfied and envious at the reputation Creech obtained by his
translation of Lucretius, purposely advised him to undertake Horace, to
which he knew him unequal, that he might by his ill performance lose the
fame he had acquired. Mr. Southerne, author of 'Oroonoko,' set me right
as to the conduct of Mr. Dryden in this affair; affirming that, being
one evening at Mr. Dryden's lodgings, in company with Mr. Creech, and
some other ingenious men, Mr. Creech told the company of his design to
translate Horace; from which Mr. Dryden, with many arguments, dissuaded
him, as an attempt which his genius was not adapted to, and which would
risk his losing the good opinion the world had of him, by his successful
translation of Lucretius. I thought it proper to acquaint you with this
circumstance, since it rescues the fame of one of our greatest poets
from the imputation of envy and malevolence." See also, upon this
subject, a note in vol. viii. Yet Jacob Tonson told Spence, "that Dryden
would compliment Crowne when a play of his failed, but was cold to him
if he met with success. He used sometimes to say, that Crowne had some
genius; but then he always added, that his father and Crowne's mother
were very well acquainted."--MALONE, vol. i. p. 500.

[64] His conversation is thus characterised by a contemporary writer:

"O, Sir, there's a medium in all things. Silence and chat are distant
enough, to have a convenient discourse come between them; and thus far I
agree with you, that the company of the author of 'Absalom and
Achitophel' is more valuable, though not so talkative, than that of the
modern men of _banter_; for what he says is like what he writes, much to
the purpose, and full of mighty sense; and if the town were for anything
desirable, it were for the conversation of him, and one or two more of
the same character."--_The Humours and Conversation of the Town exposed,
in two Dialogues_, 1693, p. 73

[65] [This story is probably as old as the first married pair of whom
the husband was studious. It certainly appears without names in the
_Historiettes_ of Tallemant des Réaux, most of which were written five
years before Dryden's marriage.--ED]

[66] "When Dryden, our first great master of verse and harmony, brought
his play of 'Amphitryon' to the stage, I heard him give it his first
reading to the actors; in which, though it is true he delivered the
plain sense of every period, yet the whole was in so cold, so flat, and
unaffecting a manner, that I am afraid of not being believed, when I
affirm it."--_Cibber's Apology_, 4to.

[67] [Transcriber's note: "See page 112" in original. This is to be
found in Section III.]

[68] Vol. xviii.

[69] "I find (says Gildon) Mr. Bayes, the younger [Rowe], has two
qualities, like Mr. Bayes, the elder; his admiration of some odd books,
as 'Reynard the Fox,' and the old ballads of 'Jane Shore,' etc."--
_Remarks on Mr. Rome's Plays_. "Reynard the Fox" is also mentioned in
"The Town and Country Mouse," as a favourite book of Dryden. And
Addison, in the 85th number of the Spectator, informs us, that Dorset
and Dryden delighted in perusing the collection of old ballads which the
latter possessed.

[70] Vol. xviii.

[71] It is now No. 43.

[72] Vol. vii.

[73] [The unfavourable accounts of Lady Elizabeth's temper after
marriage are not much better founded than those of her maidenly or
unmaidenly conduct before it. Dryden's supposed to almost all his
contemporaries in _belles-lettres_. There is no sign in his letters of
any conjugal unhappiness, and Malone's "respectable authority" is family
gossip a century after date.--ED.]

[74] [Transcriber's note: "P. 85" in original. This is to be found in
Section II.]

[75] These are--1. Latin verses prefixed to Lord Roscommon's Essay on
Translated Verse. 2. Latin verses on the Death of Charles II., published
in the Cambridge collection of Elegies on that occasion. 3. A poem in
the same language, upon Lord Arlington's Gardens, published in the
Second Miscellany. 4. A translation of the seventh Satire of Juvenal,
mentioned in the text. 5. An English poem, on the Happiness of a Retired
Life. 6. A pretty song, printed by Mr. Malone, to which Charles Dryden
also composed music.

[76] The prologue was spoken by the ghosts of Shakespeare and Dryden;
from which Mr. Malone selects the following curious quotation:--"Mr.
Bevil Higgons, the writer of it, _ventured_ to make the representative
of our great dramatic poet speak these lines!--

  "These scenes in their rough native dress were mine;
  _But now, improved, with nobler lustre shine_
  The first rude sketches Shakespeare's pencil drew,
  _But all the shining master strokes are new._
  This play, ye critics, shall your fury stand,
  Adorned and rescued by a faultless hand."

To which our author replies,

  "I long endeavoured to support the stage,
  With the faint copies of thy nobler rage,
  But toiled in vain for an ungenerous age.
  They starved me living, nay, denied me fame,
  And scarce, now dead, do justice to my name.
  Would you repent? Be to my ashes kind;
  Indulge the pledges I have left behind."--MALONE.

[77] [Transcriber's note: "Page 206, and vol. ix." in original. This is
to be found in Section V.]

[78] Mr. Malone says, "Edward Dryden, the eldest son of the last Sir
Erasmus Dryden, left by his wife, Elizabeth Allen, who died in London in
1761, five sons; the youngest of whom, Bevil, was father of the present
Lady Dryden. Sir John, the eldest, survived all his brothers, and died
without issue, at Canons-Ashby, March 20, 1770." [The subsequent history
of the family is as follows:--Elizabeth Dryden, the "present Lady
Dryden" referred to by Scott, married Mr. John Turner, to whom she
carried the estates. Mr. Turner assumed the name and arms of Dryden in
1791, and was created a baronet four years later. The title and property
passed successively to his two sons, and then to the son of the younger,
the present Sir Henry Dryden, a distinguished archaeologist.--ED.]


_The State of Dryden's Reputation at his Death, and afterwards--The
General Character of his Mind--His Merit as a Dramatist--As a Lyrical
Poet---As a Satirist--As a Narrative Poet--As a Philosophical and
Miscellaneous Poet--As a Translator--As a Prose Author--As a Critic._

If Dryden received but a slender share of the gifts of fortune, it was
amply made up to him in reputation. Even while a poet militant upon
earth, he received no ordinary portion of that applause, which is too
often reserved for the "dull cold ear of death." He combated, it is
true, but he conquered; and, in despite of faction, civil and religious,
of penury, and the contempt which follows it, of degrading patronage,
and rejected solicitation, from 1666 to the year of his death, the name
of Dryden was first in English literature. Nor was his fame limited to
Britain. Of the French literati, although Boileau,[1] with unworthy
affectation, when he heard of the honours paid to the poet's remains,
pretended ignorance even of his name, yet Rapin, the famous critic,
learned the English language on purpose to read the works of Dryden.[2]
Sir John Shadwell, the son of our author's ancient adversary, bore an
honourable and manly testimony to the general regret among the men of
letters at Paris for the death of Dryden. "The men of letters here
lament the loss of Mr. Dryden very much. The honours paid to him have
done our countrymen no small service; for, next to having so
considerable a man of our own growth, 'tis a reputation to have known
how to value him; as patrons very often pass for wits, by esteeming
those that are so." And from another authority we learn, that the
engraved copies of Dryden's portrait were bought up with avidity on the

But it was in England where the loss of Dryden was chiefly to be felt.
It is seldom the extent of such a deprivation is understood, till it has
taken place; as the size of an object is best estimated, when we see the
space void which it had long occupied. The men of literature, starting
as it were from a dream, began to heap commemorations, panegyrics, and
elegies: the great were as much astonished at their own neglect of such
an object of bounty, as if the same had never been practised before; and
expressed as much compunction, as it were never to occur again. The
poets were not silent; but their strains only evinced their woful
degeneracy from him whom they mourned. Henry Playford, a publisher of
music, collected their effusions into a compilation, entitled, "Luctus
Britannici, or the Tears of the British Muses, for the death of John
Dryden;" which he published about two months after Dryden's death.[4]
Nine ladies, assuming each the character of a Muse, and clubbing a
funeral ode, or elegy, produced "The Nine Muses;" of which very rare
(and very worthless) collection, I have given a short account in the
Appendix; where the reader will also find an ode on the same subject, by
Oldys, which may serve for ample specimen of the poetical lamentations
over Dryden.

The more costly, though equally unsubstantial, honour of a monument, was
projected by Montague; and loud were the acclamations of the poets on
his generous forgiveness of past discords with Dryden, and the
munificence of this universal patron. But Montague never accomplished
his purpose, if he seriously entertained it. Pelham, Duke of Newcastle,
announced the same intention; received the panegyric of Congreve for
having done so; and having thus pocketed the applause, proceeded no
further than Montague had done. At length Pope, in some lines which were
rather an epitaph on Dryden, who lay in the vicinity, than on Rowe, over
whose tomb they were to be placed,[5] roused Dryden's original patron,
Sheffield, formerly Earl of Mulgrave, and now Duke of Buckingham, to
erect over the grave of his friend the present simple monument which
distinguishes it. The inscription was comprised in the following
words:--_J. Dryden. Natus 1632. Mortuus I Maii 1700. Joannes Sheffield,
Duxx Buckinghamiensis posuit, 1720_.[6]

In the school of reformed English poetry, of which Dryden must be
acknowledged as the founder, there soon arose disciples not unwilling to
be considered as the rivals of their muster. Addison had his partisans,
who were desirous to hold him up in this point of view; and he himself
is said to have taken pleasure, with the assistance of Steele, to
depreciate Dryden, whose fame was defended by Pope and Congreve. No
serious invasion of Dryden's pre-eminence can be said, however, to have
taken place, till Pope himself, refining upon that structure of
versification which our author had first introduced, and attending with
sedulous diligence to improve every passage to the highest pitch of
point and harmony, exhibited a new style of composition, and claimed at
least to share with Dryden the sovereignty of Parnassus. I will not
attempt to concentrate what Johnson has said upon this interesting

"In acquired knowledge, the superiority must be allowed to Dryden, whose
education was more scholastic, and who, before he became an author, had
been allowed more time for study, with better means of information. His
mind has a larger range, and he collects his images and illustrations
from a more extensive circumference of science. Dryden knew more of man
in his general nature, and Pope in his local manners. The notions of
Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation, and those of Pope by
minute attention. There is more dignity in the knowledge of Dryden, and
more certainty in that of Pope.

"Poetry was not the sole praise of either; for both excelled likewise in
prose; but Pope did not borrow his prose from his predecessor. The style
of Dryden is capricious and varied, that of Pope is cautious and
uniform. Dryden obeys the motions of his own mind, Pope constrains his
mind to his own rules of composition. Dryden is sometimes vehement and
rapid; Pope is always smooth, uniform, and gentle. Dryden's page is a
natural field, rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied
exuberance of abundant vegetation; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shaven by
the scythe, and levelled by the roller.

"Of genius, that power which constitutes a poet; that quality, without
which judgment is cold, and knowledge is inert; that energy, which
collects, combines, amplifies, and animates; the superiority must, with
some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden. It is not to be inferred, that of
this poetical vigour Pope had only a little, because Dryden had more;
for every other writer, since Milton, must give place to Pope: and even
of Dryden it must be said, that if he has brighter paragraphs, he has
not better poems. Dryden's performances were always hasty, either
excited by some external occasion, or extorted by domestic necessity; he
composed without consideration, and published without correction. What
his mind could supply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that
he sought, and all that he gave. The dilatory caution of Pope enabled
him to condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and to
accumulate all that study might produce, or chance might supply. If the
flights of Dryden, therefore, are higher, Pope continues longer on the
wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter, of Pope the heat is
more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope
never falls below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and
Pope with perpetual delight."[7]

As the eighteenth century advanced, the difference between the styles of
these celebrated authors became yet more manifest. It was then obvious,
that though Pope's felicity of expression, his beautiful polish of
sentiment, and the occasional brilliancy of his wit, were not easily
imitated, yet many authors, by dint of a good ear, and a fluent
expression, learned to command the unaltered sweetness of his melody,
which, like a favourite tune, when descended to hawkers and
ballad-singers, became disgusting as it became common. The admirers of
poetry then reverted to the brave negligence of Dryden's versification,
as, to use Johnson's simile, the eye, fatigued with the uniformity of a
lawn, seeks variety in the uncultivated glade or swelling mountain. The
preference for which Dennis, asserting the cause of Dryden, had raved
and thundered in vain, began, by degrees, to be assigned to the elder
bard; and many a poet sheltered his harsh verses and inequalities under
an assertion that he belonged to the school of Dryden. Churchill--

  "Who, born for the universe, narrowed his mind,
  And to party gave up what was meant for mankind,"--

Churchill was one of the first to seek in the "Mac-Flecknoe," the
"Absalom," and "The Hind and Panther," authority for bitter and personal
sarcasm, couched in masculine, though irregular versification, dashed
from the pen without revision, and admitting occasional rude and flat
passages, to afford the author a spring to comparative elevation. But
imitation always approaches to caricature; and the powers of Churchill
have been unable to protect him from the oblivion into which his poems
are daily sinking, owing to the ephemeral interest of political
subjects, and his indolent negligence of severe study and regularity. To
imitate Dryden, it were well to study his merits, without venturing to
adopt the negligences and harshness, which the hurry of his composition,
and the comparative rudeness of his age, rendered in him excusable. At
least, those who venture to sink as low, should be confident of the
power of soaring as high; for surely it is a rash attempt to dive,
unless in one conscious of ability to swim. While the beauties of Dryden
may be fairly pointed out as an object of emulation, it is the less
pleasing, but not less necessary, duty of his biographer and editor, to
notice those deficiencies, which his high and venerable name may excuse,
but cannot render proper objects of applause or imitation.

So much occasional criticism has been scattered in various places
through these volumes, that, while attempting the consideration of one
or two of his distinguishing and pre-eminent compositions, which have
been intentionally reserved to illustrate a few pages of general
criticism, I feel myself free from the difficult, and almost
contradictory task, of drawing my maxims and examples from the extended
course of his literary career.

My present task is limited to deducing his poetic character from those
works which he formed on his last and most approved model. The general
tone of his genius, however, influenced the whole course of his
publications; and upon that, however his taste, a few preliminary
notices may not be misplaced.

The distinguishing characteristic of Dryden's genius seems to have been
the power of reasoning, and of expressing the result in appropriate
language.[8] This may seem slender praise; yet these were the talents
that led Bacon into the recesses of philosophy, and conducted Newton to
the cabinet of nature. The prose works of Dryden bear repeated evidence
to his philosophical powers. His philosophy was not indeed of a formed
and systematic character; for he is often contented to leave the path of
argument which must have conducted him to the fountain of truth, and to
resort with indolence or indifference to the leaky cisterns which had
been hewn out by former critics. But where his pride or his taste are
interested, he shows evidently, that it was not want of the power of
systematising, but of the time and patience necessary to form a system,
which occasions the discrepancy that we often notice in his critical and
philological disquisitions. This power of ratiocination, of
investigating, discovering, and appreciating that which is really
excellent, if accompanied with the necessary command of fanciful
illustration, and elegant expression, is the most interesting quality
which can be possessed by a poet. It must indeed have a share in the
composition of everything that is truly estimable in the fine arts, as
well as in philosophy. Nothing is so easily attained as the power of
presenting the extrinsic qualities of fine painting, fine music, or fine
poetry; the beauty of colour and outline, the combination of notes, the
melody of versification, may be imitated by artists of mediocrity; and
many will view, hear, or peruse their performances, without being able
positively to discover why they should not, since composed according to
all the rules, afford pleasure equal to those of Raphael, Handel, or
Dryden. The deficiency lies in the vivifying spirit, which, like
_alcohol_, may be reduced to the same principle in all, though it
assumes such varied qualities from the mode in which it is exerted or
combined. Of this power of intellect, Dryden seems to have possessed
almost an exuberant share, combined, as usual, with the faculty of
correcting his own conceptions, by observing human nature, the practical
and experimental philosophy as well of poetry as of ethics or physics.
The early habits of Dryden's education and poetical studies gave his
researches somewhat too much of a metaphysical character; and it was a
consequence of his mental acuteness, that his dramatic personages often
philosophised or reasoned, when they ought only to have felt. The more
lofty, the fiercer, the more ambitious feelings, seem also to have been
his favourite studies. Perhaps the analytical mode in which he exercised
his studies of human life tended to confine his observation to the more
energetic feelings of pride, anger, ambition, and other high-toned
passions. He that mixes in public life must see enough of these stormy
convulsions; but the finer and more imperceptible operations of love, in
its sentimental modifications, if the heart of the author does not
supply an example from its own feelings, cannot easily be studied at the
expense of others. Dryden's bosom, it must be owned, seems to have
afforded him no such means of information; the licence of his age, and
perhaps the advanced period at which he commenced his literary career,
had probably armed him against this more exalted strain of passion. The
love of the senses he has in many places expressed, in as forcible and
dignified colouring as the subject could admit; but of a mere moral and
sentimental passion he seems to have had little idea, since he
frequently substitutes in its place the absurd, unnatural, and
fictitious refinements of romance. In short, his love is always in
indecorous nakedness, or sheathed in the stiff panoply of chivalry. But
if Dryden fails in expressing the milder and more tender passions, not
only did the stronger feelings of the heart, in all its dark or violent
workings, but the face of natural objects, and their operation upon the
human mind, pass promptly in review at his command. External pictures,
and their corresponding influence on the spectator, are equally ready at
his summons; and though his poetry, from the nature of his subjects, is
in general rather ethic and didactic, than narrative of composition,
than his figures and his landscapes are presented to the mind with the
same vivacity as the flow of his reasoning, or the acute metaphysical
discrimination of his characters.

But the powers of observation and of deduction are not the only
qualities essential to the poetical character. The philosopher may
indeed prosecute his experimental researches into the _arcana_ of
nature, and announce them to the public through the medium of a friendly
_rédacteur_, as the legislator of Israel obtained permission to speak to
the people by the voice of Aaron; but the poet has no such privilege;
nay, his doom is so far capricious, that, though he may be possessed of
the primary quality of poetical conception to the highest possible
extent, it is but like a lute without its strings, unless he has the
subordinate, though equally essential, power of expressing what he feels
and conceives, in appropriate and harmonious language. With this power
Dryden's poetry was gifted in a degree, surpassing in modulated harmony
that of all who had preceded him, and inferior to none that has since
written English verse. He first showed that the English language was
capable of uniting smoothness and strength. The hobbling verses of his
predecessors were abandoned even by the lowest versifiers; and by the
force of his precept and example, the meanest lampooners of the year
seventeen hundred wrote smoother lines than Donne and Cowley, the chief
poets of the earlier half of the seventeenth century. What was said of
Rome adorned by Augustus, has been, by Johnson, applied to English
poetry improved by Dryden; that he found it of brick, and left it of
marble. This reformation was not merely the effect of an excellent ear,
and a superlative command of gratifying it by sounding language; it was,
we have seen, the effect of close, accurate, and continued study of the
power of the English tongue. Upon what principles he adopted and
continued his system of versification, he long meditated to communicate
in his projected prosody of English poetry. The work, however, might
have been more curious than useful, as there would have been some danger
of its diverting the attention, and misguiding the efforts of poetical
adventurers; for as it is more easy to be masons than architects, we may
deprecate an art which might teach the world to value those who can
build rhymes, without attending to the more essential qualities of
poetry. Strict attention might no doubt discover the principle of
Dryden's versification; but it seems no more essential to the analysing
his poetry, than the principles of mathematics to understanding music,
although the art necessarily depends on them. The extent in which Dryden
reformed our poetry, is most readily proved by an appeal to the ear; and
Dr. Johnson has forcibly stated, that "he knew how to choose the flowing
and the sonorous words; to vary the pauses and adjust the accents; to
diversify the cadence, and yet preserve the smoothness of the metre." To
vary the English hexameter, he established the use of the triplet and
Alexandrine. Though ridiculed by Swift, who vainly thought he had
exploded them for ever, their force is still acknowledged in classical

Of the various kinds of poetry which Dryden occasionally practised, the
drama was that which, until the last six years of his life, he chiefly
relied on for support. His style of tragedy, we have seen, varied with
his improved taste, perhaps with the change of manners. Although the
heroic drama, as we have described it at length in the preceding pages,
presented the strongest temptation to the exercise of argumentative
poetry in sounding rhyme, Dryden was at length contented to abandon it
for the more pure and chaste style of tragedy, which professes rather
the representation of human beings, than the creation of ideal
perfection, or fantastic and anomalous characters. The best of Dryden's
performances in this latter style, are unquestionably "Don Sebastian,"
and "All for Love." Of these, the former is in the poet's very best
manner; exhibiting dramatic persons, consisting of such bold and
impetuous characters as he delighted to draw, well contrasted, forcibly
marked, and engaged in an interesting succession of events. To many
tempers, the scene between Sebastian and Dorax must appear one of the
most moving that ever adorned the British stage. Of "All for Love," we
may say, that it is successful in a softer style of painting; and that
so far as sweet and beautiful versification, elegant language, and
occasional tenderness, can make amends for Dryden's deficiencies in
describing the delicacies of sentimental passion, they are to be found
in abundance in that piece. But on these, and on the poet's other
tragedies, we have enlarged in our preliminary notices prefixed to each

Dryden's comedies, besides being stained with the licence of the age (a
licence which he seems to use as much from necessity as choice), have,
generally speaking, a certain heaviness of character. There are many
flashes of wit; but the author has beaten his flint hard ere he struck
them out. It is almost essential to the success of a jest, that it
should at least seem to be extemporaneous. If we espy the joke at a
distance, nay, if without seeing it we have the least reason to suspect
we are travelling towards one, it is astonishing how the perverse
obstinacy of our nature delights to refuse it currency. When, therefore,
as is often the case in Dryden's comedies, two persons remain on the
stage for no obvious purpose but to say good things, it is no wonder
they receive but little thanks from an ungrateful audience. The
incidents, therefore, and the characters, ought to be comic; but actual
jests, or _bon mots_, should be rarely introduced, and then naturally,
easily, without an appearance of premeditation, and bearing a strict
conformity to the character of the person who utters them. Comic
situation Dryden did not greatly study; indeed I hardly recollect any,
unless in the closing scene of "The Spanish Friar," which indicates any
peculiar felicity of invention. For comic character, he is usually
contented to paint a generic representative of a certain class of men or
women; a Father Dominic, for example, or a Melantha, with all the
attributes of their calling and manners, strongly and divertingly
portrayed, but without any individuality of character. It is probable
that, with these deficiencies, he felt the truth of his own
acknowledgment, and that he was forced upon composing comedies to
gratify the taste of the age, while the bent of his genius was otherwise

In lyrical poetry, Dryden must be allowed to have no equal. "Alexander's
Feast" is sufficient to show his supremacy in that brilliant department.
In this exquisite production, he flung from him all the trappings with
which his contemporaries had embarrassed the ode. The language, lofty
and striking as the ideas are, is equally simple and harmonious; without
far-fetched allusions, or epithets, or metaphors, the story is told as
intelligibly as if it had been in the most humble prose. The change of
tone in the harp of Timotheus, regulates the measure and the melody, and
the language of every stanza. The hearer, while he is led on by the
successive changes, experiences almost the feelings of the Macedonian
and his peers; nor is the splendid poem disgraced by one word or line
unworthy of it, unless we join in the severe criticism of Dr. Johnson,
on the concluding stanzas. It is true, that the praise of St. Cecilia is
rather abruptly introduced as a conclusion to the account of the Feast
of Alexander; and it is also true, that the comparison,

  "He raised a mortal to the sky,
  She drew an angel down,"

is inaccurate, since the feat of Timotheus was metaphorical, and that of
Cecilia literal. But, while we stoop to such criticism, we seek for
blots in the sun.

Of Dryden's other pindarics, some, as the celebrated "Ode to the Memory
of Mrs. Killigrew," are mixed with the leaven of Cowley; others, like
the "_Threnodia Augustalis_," are occasionally flat and heavy. All
contain passages of brilliancy, and all are thrown into a versification,
melodious amidst its irregularity. We listen for the completion of
Dryden's stanza, as for the explication of a difficult passage in music;
and wild and lost as the sound appears, the ear is proportionally
gratified by the unexpected ease with which harmony is extracted from
discord and confusion.

The satirical powers of Dryden were of the highest order. He draws his
arrow to the head, and dismisses it straight upon his object of aim. In
this walk he wrought almost as great a reformation as upon versification
in general; as will plainly appear, if we consider, that the satire,
before Dryden's time, bore the same reference to "Absalom and
Achitophel," which an ode of Cowley bears to "Alexander's Feast." Butler
and his imitators had adopted a metaphysical satire, as the poets in the
earlier part of the century had created a metaphysical vein of serious
poetry.[9] Both required store of learning to supply the perpetual
expenditure of extraordinary and far-fetched illustration; the object of
both was to combine and hunt down the strangest and most fanciful
analogies; and both held the attention of the reader perpetually on the
stretch, to keep up with the meaning of the author. There can be no
doubt, that this metaphysical vein was much better fitted for the
burlesque than the sublime. Yet the perpetual scintillation of Butler's
wit is too dazzling to be delightful; and we can seldom read far in
"Hudibras" without feeling more fatigue than pleasure. His fancy is
employed with the profusion of a spendthrift, by whose eternal round of
banqueting his guests are at length rather wearied out than regaled.
Dryden was destined to correct this, among other errors of his age; to
show the difference between burlesque and satire; and to teach his
successors in that species of assault, rather to thrust than to flourish
with their weapon. For this purpose he avoided the unvaried and
unrelieved style of grotesque description and combination, which had
been fashionable since the satires of Cleveland and Butler. To render
the objects of his satire hateful and contemptible, he thought it
necessary to preserve the lighter shades of character, if not for the
purpose of softening the portrait, at least for that of preserving the
likeness. While Dryden seized, and dwelt upon, and aggravated, all the
evil features of his subject, he carefully retained just as much of its
laudable traits as preserved him from the charge of want of candour, and
fixed down the resemblance upon the party. And thus, instead of
unmeaning caricatures, he presents portraits which cannot be mistaken,
however unfavourable ideas they may convey of the originals. The
character of Shaftesbury, both as Achitophel, and as drawn in "The
Medal," bears peculiar witness to this assertion. While other court
poets endeavoured to turn the obnoxious statesman into ridicule on
account of his personal infirmities and extravagances, Dryden boldly
confers upon him all the praise for talent and for genius that his
friends could have claimed, and trusts to the force of his satirical
expression for working up even these admirable attributes with such a
mixture of evil propensities and dangerous qualities, that the whole
character shall appear dreadful, and even hateful, but not contemptible.
But where a character of less note, a Shadwell or a Settle, crossed his
path, the satirist did not lay himself under these restraints, but wrote
in the language of bitter irony and immeasurable contempt: even then,
however, we are less called on to admire the wit of the author, than the
force and energy of his poetical philippic. These are the verses which
are made by indignation, and, no more than theatrical scenes of real
passion, admit of refined and protracted turns of wit, or even the
lighter sallies of humour. These last ornaments are proper in that
Horatian satire, which rather ridicules the follies of the age, than
stigmatises the vices of individuals; but in this style Dryden has made
few essays. He entered the field as champion of a political party, or as
defender of his own reputation; discriminated his antagonists, and
applied the scourge with all the vehemence of Juvenal. As he has himself
said of that satirist, "his provocations were great, and he has revenged
them tragically." This is the more worthy of notice, as, in the Essay
on Satire, Dryden gives a decided preference to those nicer and more
delicate touches of satire, which consist in fine raillery. But whatever
was the opinion of his cooler moments, the poet's practice was dictated
by the furious party-spirit of the times, and the no less keen
stimulative of personal resentment. It is perhaps to be regretted, that
so much energy of thought, and so much force of expression, should have
been wasted in anatomising such criminals as Shadwell and Settle; yet we
cannot account the amber less precious, because they are grubs and flies
that are enclosed within it.

The "Fables" of Dryden are the best examples of his talents as a
narrative poet; those powers of composition, description, and narration,
which must have been called into exercise by the Epic Muse, had his fate
allowed him to enlist among her votaries. The "Knight's Tale," the
longest and most laboured of Chaucer's stories, possesses a degree of
regularity which might satisfy the most severe critic. It is true, that
the honour arising from thence must be assigned to the more ancient
bard, who had himself drawn his subject from an Italian model; but the
high and decided preference which Dryden has given to this story,
although somewhat censured by Trapp, enables us to judge how much the
poet held an accurate combination of parts, and coherence of narrative,
essentials of epic poetry.[10] That a classic scholar like Trapp should
think the plan of the "Knight's Tale" equal to that of the Iliad, is a
degree of candour not to be hoped for; but surely to an unprejudiced
reader, a story which exhausts in its conclusion all the interest which
it has excited in its progress, which, when terminated, leaves no
question to be asked, no personage undisposed of, and no curiosity
unsatisfied, is, abstractedly considered, more gratifying than the
history of a few weeks of a ten years' war, commencing long after the
siege had begun, and ending long before the city was taken. Of the other
tales, it can hardly be said that their texture is more ingenious or
closely woven than that of ordinary novels or fables: but in each of
them Dryden has displayed the superiority of his genius, in selecting
for amplification and ornament those passages most susceptible of
poetical description. The account of the procession of the Fairy
Chivalry in the "Flower and the Leaf;" the splendid description of the
champions who came to assist at the tournament in the "Knight's Tale;"
the account of the battle itself, its alternations and issue,--if they
cannot be called improvements on Chaucer, are nevertheless so spirited a
transfusion of his ideas into modern verse, as almost to claim the merit
of originality. Many passages might be shown in which this praise may be
carried still higher, and the merit of invention added to that of
imitation. Such is the description of the commencement of the tourney,
which is almost entirely original, and most of the ornaments in the
translations from Boccacio, whose prose fictions demanded more additions
from the poet than the exuberant imagery of Chaucer. To select instances
would be endless; but every reader of poetry has by heart the
description of Iphigenia asleep, nor are the lines in "Theodore and
Honoria,"[11] which describe the approach of the apparition, and its
effects upon animated and inanimated nature even before it becomes
visible, less eminent for beauties of the terrific order:

"While listening to the murmuring leaves he stood,
More than a mile immersed within the wood,
At once the wind was laid; the whispering sound
Was dumb; a rising earthquake rocked the ground;
With deeper brown the grove was overspread,
A sudden horror seized his giddy head,
And his ears tingled, and his colour fled,
Nature was in alarm; some danger nigh
Seemed threatened, though unseen to mortal eye."

It may be doubted, however, whether the simplicity of Boccacio's
narrative has not sometimes suffered by the additional decorations of
Dryden. The retort of Guiscard to Tancred's charge of ingratitude is
more sublime in the Italian original,[12] than as diluted by the English
poet into five hexameters. A worse fault occurs in the whole colouring
of Sigismonda's passion, to which Dryden has given a coarse and
indelicate character, which he did not derive from Boccacio. In like
manner, the plea used by Palamon in his prayer to Venus, is more nakedly
expressed by Dryden than by Chaucer. The former, indeed, would probably
have sheltered himself under the mantle of Lucretius; but he should have
recollected, that Palamon speaks the language of chivalry, and ought
not, to use an expression of Lord Herbert, to have spoken like a
_paillard_, but a _cavalier_. Indeed, we have before noticed it as the
most obvious and most degrading imperfection of Dryden's poetical
imagination, that he could not refine that passion, which, of all
others, is susceptible either of the purest refinement, or of admitting
the basest alloy. With Chaucer, Dryden's task was more easy than with
Boccacio. Barrenness was not the fault of the Father of English poetry;
and amid the profusion of images which he presented, his imitator had
only the task of rejecting or selecting. In the sublime description of
the temple of Mars, painted around with all the misfortunes ascribed to
the influence of his planet, it would be difficult to point out a single
idea, which is not found in the older poem. But Dryden has judiciously
omitted or softened some degrading and some disgusting circumstances; as
the "cook scalded in spite of his long ladle," the "swine devouring the
cradled infant," the "pickpurse," and other circumstances too grotesque
or ludicrous to harmonise with the dreadful group around them. Some
points, also, of sublimity, have escaped the modern poet. Such is the
appropriate and picturesque accompaniment of the statue of Mars:--

  "A wolf stood before him at his feet,
  With eyen red, and of a man he eat."[13]

In the dialogue, or argumentative parts of the poem, Dryden has
frequently improved on his original, while he falls something short of
him in simple description, or in pathetic effect. Thus, the quarrel
between Arcite and Palamon is wrought up with greater energy by Dryden
than Chaucer, particularly by the addition of the following lines,
describing the enmity of the captives against each other:--

  "Now friends no more, nor walking hand in hand,
  But when they met, they made a surly stand,
  And glared like angry lions as they passed,
  And wished that every look might be their last."

But the modern must yield the palm, despite the beauty of his
versification, to the description of Emily by Chaucer; and may be justly
accused of loading the dying speech of Arcite with conceits for which
his original gave no authority.[14]

When the story is of a light and ludicrous kind, as the Fable of the
Cock and Fox, and the Wife of Bath's Tale, Dryden displays all the
humorous expression of his satirical poetry, without its personality.
There is indeed a quaint Cervantic gravity in his mode of expressing
himself, that often glances forth, and enlivens what otherwise would be
mere dry narrative. Thus, he details certain things which passed,

  "While Cynion was _endeavouring_ to be wise;"

the force of which single word contains both a ludicrous and appropriate
picture of the revolution which the force of love was gradually creating
in the mind of the poor clown. This tone of expression he perhaps
borrowed from Ariosto, and other poets of Italian chivalry, who are
wont, ever and anon, to raise the mask, and smile even at the romantic
tale they are themselves telling.

Leaving these desultory reflections on Dryden's powers of narrative, I
cannot but notice, that, from haste or negligence, he has sometimes
mistaken the sense of his author. Into the hands of the champions in
"The Flower and the Leaf," he has placed _bows_ instead of _boughs_,
because the word is in the original spelled _bowes_; and, having made
the error, he immediately devises an explanation of the device which he
had mistaken:--

  "For bows the strength of brawny arms imply,
  Emblems of valour, and of victory."

He has, in like manner, accused Chaucer of introducing Gallicisms into
the English language; not aware that French was the language of the
court of England not long before Chaucer's time, and, that, far from
introducing French phrases into the English tongue, the ancient bard was
successfully active in introducing the English as a fashionable dialect,
instead of the French, which had, before his time, been the only
language of polite literature in England. Other instances might be given
of similar oversights, which, in the situation of Dryden, are
sufficiently pardonable.

Upon the whole, in introducing these romances of Boccacio and Chaucer to
modern readers, Dryden has necessarily deprived them of some of the
charms which they possess for those who have perused them in their
original state. With a tale or poem, by which we have been sincerely
interested, we connect many feelings independent of those arising from
actual poetical merit. The delight, arising from the whole, sanctions,
nay, sanctifies, the faulty passages; and even actual improvements, like
supplements to a mutilated statue of antiquity, injure our preconceived
associations, and hurt, by their incongruity with our feelings, more
than they give pleasure by their own excellence. But to antiquaries
Dryden has sufficiently justified himself, by declaring his version made
for the sake of modern readers, who understand sense and poetry as well
as the old Saxon admirers of Chaucer, when that poetry and sense are put
into words which they can understand. Let us also grant him, that, for
the beauties which are lost, he has substituted many which the original
did not afford; that, in passages of gorgeous description, he has added
even to the chivalrous splendour of Chaucer, and has graced with
poetical ornament the simplicity of Boccacio; that, if he has failed in
tenderness, he is never deficient in majesty; and that if the heart be
sometimes untouched, the understanding and fancy are always exercised
and delighted.

The philosophy of Dryden, we have already said, was that of original and
penetrating genius; imperfect only, when, from want of time and of
industry, he adopted the ideas of others, when he should have communed
at leisure with his own mind. The proofs of his philosophical powers are
not to be sought for in any particular poem or disquisition. Even the
"Religio Laici," written expressly as a philosophical poem, only shows
how easily the most powerful mind may entangle itself in sophistical
toils of its own weaving; for the train of argument there pursued was
completed by Dryden's conversion to the Roman Catholic faith.[15] It is
therefore in the discussion of incidental subjects, in his mode of
treating points of controversy, in the new lights which he seldom fails
to throw upon a controversial subject, in his talent of argumentive
discussion, that we are to look for the character of Dryden's moral
powers. His opinions, doubtless, are often inconsistent, and sometimes
absolutely contradictory; for, pressed by the necessity of discussing
the object before him, he seldom looked back to what he said formerly,
or forward to what he might be obliged to say in future. His sole
subject of consideration was to maintain his present point; and that by
authority, by declamation, by argument, by every means. But his
philosophical powers are not the less to be estimated, because thus
irregularly and unphilosophically employed. His arguments, even in the
worst cause, bear witness to the energy of his mental conceptions; and
the skill with which they are stated, elucidated, enforced, and
exemplified, ever commands our admiration, though, in the result, our
reason may reject their influence. It must be remembered also, to
Dryden's honour, that he was the first to hail the dawn of experimental
philosophy in physics; to gratulate his country on possessing Bacon,
Harvey, and Boyle; and to exult over the downfall of the Aristotelian
tyranny.[16] Had he lived to see a similar revolution commenced in
ethics, there can be little doubt he would have welcomed it with the
same delight; or had his leisure and situation permitted him to dedicate
his time to investigating moral problems, he might himself have led the
way to deliverance from error and uncertainty. But the dawn of
reformation must ever be gradual, and the acquisitions even of those
calculated to advance it must therefore frequently appear desultory and
imperfect. The author of the _Novum Organum_ believed in charms and
occult sympathy; and Dryden in the chimeras of judicial astrology, and
probably in the jargon of alchemy. When these subjects occur in his
poetry, he dwells on them with a pleasure which shows the command they
maintained over his mind. Much of the astrological knowledge displayed
in the Knight's Tale is introduced, or at least amplified, by Dryden;
and while, in the fable of the Cock and the Fox, he ridicules the
doctrine of prediction from dreams, the inherent qualities of the four
complexions,[17] and other abstruse doctrines of Paracelsus and his
followers, we have good reason to suspect that, like many other
scoffers, he believed in the efficacy and truth of the subject of his
ridicule. However this shade of credulity may injure Dryden's character
as a philosopher, we cannot regret its influence on his poetry. Collins
has thus celebrated Fairfax:--

  "Prevailing poet, whose undoubting mind,
  Believed the magic wonders which he sung."

Nor can there be a doubt that, as every work of imagination is tinged
with the author's passions and prejudices, it must be deep and energetic
in proportion to the character of these impressions. Those superstitious
sciences and pursuits, which would, by mystic rites, doctrines, and
inferences, connect us with the invisible world of spirits, or guide our
daring researches to a knowledge of future events, are indeed usually
found to cow, crush, and utterly stupefy, understandings of a lower
rank; but if the mind of a man of acute powers, and of warm fancy,
becomes slightly imbued with the visionary feelings excited by such
studies, their obscure and undefined influence is ever found to aid the
sublimity of his ideas, and to give that sombre and serious effect,
which he can never produce, who does not himself feel the awe which it
is his object to excite. The influence of such a mystic creed is often
felt where the cause is concealed; for the habits thus acquired are not
confined to their own sphere of belief, but gradually extend themselves
over every adjacent province: and perhaps we may not go too far in
believing, that he who has felt their impression, though only in one
branch of faith, becomes fitted to describe, with an air of reality and
interest, not only kindred subjects, but superstitions altogether
opposite to his own. The religion, which Dryden finally adopted, lent
its occasional aid to the solemn colouring of some of his later
productions, Tipon which subject we have elsewhere enlarged at some

The occasional poetry of Dryden is marked strongly by masculine
character. The Epistles vary with the subject; and are light, humorous,
and satirical, or grave, argumentative, and philosophical, as the case
required. In his Elegies, although they contain touches of true feeling,
especially where the stronger passions are to be illustrated, the poet
is often content to substitute reasoning for passion, and rather to show
us cause why we ought to grieve, than to set us the example by grieving
himself. The inherent defect in Dryden's composition becomes here
peculiarly conspicuous; yet we should consider, that, in composing
elegies for the Countess of Abingdon, whom he never saw, and for Charles
II., by whom he had been cruelly neglected, and doubtless on many
similar occasions, Dryden could not even pretend to be interested in the
mournful subject of his verse; but attended, with his poem, as much in
the way of trade, as the undertaker, on the same occasion, came with his
sables and his scutcheon. The poet may interest himself and his reader,
even to tears, in the fate of a being altogether the creation of his own
fancy, but hardly by a hired panegyric on a real subject, in whom his
heart acknowledges no other interest than a fee can give him. Few of
Dryden's elegiac effusions, therefore, seem prompted by sincere sorrow.
That to Oldham may be an exception; but, even there, he rather strives
to do honour to the talents of his departed friend, than to pour out
lamentations for his loss. Of the Prologues and Epilogues we have spoken
fully elsewhere.[19]  Some of them are coarsely satirical, and others
grossly indelicate. Those spoken at Oxford are the most valuable, and
contain much good criticism and beautiful poetry. But the worst of them
was probably well worth the petty recompence which the poet
received.[20] The songs and smaller pieces of Dryden have smoothness,
wit, and when addressed to ladies, gallantry in profusion, but are
deficient in tenderness. They seem to have been composed with great
ease; thrown together hastily and occasionally; nor can we doubt that
many of them are now irrecoverably lost. Mr. Malone gives us an instance
of Dryden's fluency in extempore composition, which was communicated to
him by Mr. Walcott. "Conversation, one day after dinner, at Mrs.
Creed's, running upon the origin of names, Mr. Dryden bowed to the good
old lady, and spoke extempore the following verses:--

  "So much religion in _your_ name doth dwell,
  Your soul must needs with piety excel.
  Thus names, like [well-wrought] pictures drawn of old,
  Their owners' nature and their story told.--
  Your name but half expresses; for in you
  Belief and practice do together go.
  My prayers shall be, while this short life endures,
  These may go hand in hand, with you and yours;
  Till faith hereafter is in vision drowned,
  And practice is with endless glory crowned."

The Translations of Dryden form a distinguished part of his poetical
labours. No author, excepting Pope, has done so much to endenizen the
eminent poets of antiquity. In this sphere, also, it was the fate of
Dryden to become a leading example to future poets, and to abrogate laws
which had been generally received although they imposed such trammels on
translation as to render it hardly intelligible. Before his
distinguished success showed that the object of the translator should be
to transfuse the spirit, not to copy servilely the very words of his
original, it had been required, that line should be rendered for line,
and, almost, word for word. It may easily be imagined, that, by the
constraint and inversion which this cramping statute required, a poem
was barely rendered _not Latin_, instead of being made English, and
that, to the mere native reader, as the connoisseur complains in "The
Critic", the interpreter was sometimes "the harder to be understood of
the two." Those who seek examples, may find them in the jaw-breaking
translations of Ben Jonson and Holyday. Cowley and Denham had indeed
rebelled against this mode of translation, which conveys pretty much the
same idea of an original, as an imitator would do of the gait of
another, by studiously stepping after him into every trace which his
feet had left upon the sand. But they assumed a licence equally faulty,
and claimed the privilege of writing what might be more properly termed
imitations, than versions of the classics. It was reserved to Dryden
manfully to claim and vindicate the freedom of a just translation; more
limited than paraphrase, but free from the metaphrastic severity exacted
from his predecessors.

With these free yet unlicentious principles, Dryden brought to the task
of translation a competent knowledge of the language of the originals,
with an unbounded command of his own. The latter is, however, by far the
most marked characteristic of his Translations. Dryden was not indeed
deficient in Greek and Roman learning; but he paused not to weigh and
sift those difficult and obscure passages, at which the most learned
will doubt and hesitate for the correct meaning. The same rapidity,
which marked his own poetry, seems to have attended his study of the
classics. He seldom waited to analyse the sentence he was about to
render, far less scrupulously to weigh the precise purport and value of
every word it contained. If he caught the general spirit and meaning of
the author, and could express it with equal force in English verse, he
cared not if minute elegancies were lost, or the beauties of accurate
proportion destroyed, or a dubious interpretation hastily adopted on the
credit of a _scholium_. He used abundantly the licence he has claimed
for a translator, to be deficient rather in the language out of which he
renders, than of that into which he translates. If such be but master of
the sense of his author, Dryden argues, he may express that sense with
eloquence in his own tongue, though he understand not the nice turns of
the original. "But without the latter quality he can never arrive at the
useful and the delightful, without which reading is a penance and
fatigue."[21] With the same spirit of haste, Dryden if often contented
to present to the English reader some modern image, which he may at once
fully comprehend, instead of rendering precisely a classic expression,
which might require explanation or paraphrase. Thus the _pulchra
Sicyonia_, or buskins of Sicyon, are rendered,

  "Diamond-buckles sparkling in their shoes."

By a yet more unfortunate adaptation of modern technical phraseology,
the simple direction of Helenus,

  "_Læva tibi tellus, et longo læva pelantur
  Æquora circuitu: dextrum fage lillus et undas_,"

is translated,

  "Tack to the larboard, and stand off to sea,
  Veer starboard sea and land:"

--a counsel which, I shrewdly suspect, would have been unintelligible,
not only to Palinurus, but to the best pilot in the British navy.[22] In
the same tone, but with more intelligibility, if not felicity, Dryden
translates _palatia coeli_ in Ovid, the _Louvre of the sky_; and, in the
version of the first book of Homer, talks of the court of Jupiter in the
phrases used at that of Whitehall. These expressions, proper to modern
manners, often produce an unfortunate confusion between the age in which
the scene is laid, and the date of the translation. No judicious poet is
willing to break the interest of a tale of ancient times, by allusions
peculiar to his own period: but when the translator, instead of
identifying himself as closely as possible with the original author,
pretends to such liberty, he removes us a third step from the time of
action, and so confounds the manners of no less than three distinct
eras,--that in which the scene is laid, that in which the poem was
written, and that, finally, in which the translation was executed. There
are passages in Dryden's Æneid, which, in the revolution of a few pages,
transport our ideas from the time of Troy's siege to that of the court
of Augustus, and thence downward to the reign of William the Third of

It must be owned, at the same time, that when the translator places
before you, not the exact words, but the image of the original, as the
classic author would probably have himself expressed it in English, the
licence, when moderately employed, has an infinite charm for those
readers for whose use translations are properly written. Pope's Homer
and Dryden's Virgil can never indeed give exquisite satisfaction to
scholars, accustomed to study the Greek and Latin originals. The minds
of such readers have acquired a classic tone; and not merely the ideas
and poetical imagery, but the manners and habits of the actors, have
become intimately familiar to them. They will not, therefore, be
satisfied with any translation in which these are violated, whether for
the sake of indolence in the translator, or ease to the unlettered
reader; and perhaps they will be more pleased that a favourite bard
should move with less ease and spirit in his new habiliments, than that
his garments should be cut upon the model of the country to which the
stranger is introduced. In the former case, they will readily make
allowance for the imperfection of modern language; in the latter, they
will hardly pardon the sophistication of ancient manners. But the mere
English reader, who finds rigid adherence to antique costume rather
embarrassing than pleasing, who is prepared to make no sacrifices in
order to preserve the true manners of antiquity, shocking perhaps to his
feelings and prejudices, is satisfied that the Iliad and Æneid shall
lose their antiquarian merit, provided they retain that vital spirit and
energy, which is the soul of poetry in all languages, and countries, and
ages whatsoever. He who sits down to Dryden's translation of Virgil,
with the original text spread before him, will be at no loss to point
out many passages that are faulty, many indifferently understood, many
imperfectly translated, some in which dignity is lost, others in which
bombast is substituted in its stead. But the unabated vigour and spirit
of the version more than overbalances these and all its other
deficiencies. A sedulous scholar might often approach more nearly to the
dead letter of Virgil, and give an exact, distinct, sober-minded idea of
the meaning and scope of particular passages. Trapp, Pitt, and others
have done so. But the essential spirit of poetry is so volatile, that it
escapes during such an operation, like the life of the poor criminal,
whom the ancient anatomist is said to have dissected alive, in order to
ascertain the seat of the soul. The carcase indeed is presented to the
English reader, but the animating vigour is no more. It is in this art,
of communicating the ancient poet's ideas with force and energy equal to
his own, that Dryden has so completely exceeded all who have gone
before, and all who have succeeded him. The beautiful and unequalled
version of the Tale of Myrrha in the "Metamorphoses," the whole of the
Sixth Æneid, and many other parts of Dryden's translations, are
sufficient, had he never written one line of original poetry, to
vindicate the well-known panegyric of Churchill:--

  "Here let me bend, great Dryden, at thy shrine,
  Thou dearest name to all the tuneful Nine!
  What if some dull lines in cold order creep,
  And with his theme the poet seems to sleep?
  Still, when his subject rises proud to view,
  With equal strength the poet rises too:
  With strong invention, noblest vigour fraught,
  Thought still springs up, and rises out of thought;
  Numbers ennobling numbers in their course,
  In varied sweetness flow, in varied force;
  The powers of genius and of judgment join,
  And the whole art of poetry is thine."

We are in this disquisition naturally tempted to inquire, whether Dryden
would have succeeded in his proposed design to translate Homer, as
happily as in his Virgil? And although he himself more fiery, and
therefore better suited to his own than that of the Roman poet, there
may be room to question, whether in this case he rightly estimated his
own talents, or rather, whether, being fully conscious of their extent,
he was aware of labouring under certain deficiencies of taste, which
must have been more apparent in a version of the Iliad than of the
Æneid. If a translator has any characteristic and peculiar foible, it is
surely unfortunate to choose an original, who may give peculiar
facilities to exhibit them. Thus, even Dryden's repeated disclamation of
puns, points, and quibbles, and all the repentance of his more sober
hours, was unable, so soon as he began to translate Ovid, to prevent his
sliding back into the practice of that false wit with which his earlier
productions are imbued. Hence he has been seduced, by the similarity of
style, to add to the offences of his original, and introduce, though it
needed not, points of wit and antithetical prettinesses, for which he
cannot plead Ovid's authority. For example, he makes Ajax say of
Ulysses, when surrounded by the Trojans,

  "No wonder if he roared that all might hear,
  His elocution was increased by fear."

The Latin only bears, _conclamat socios._ A little lower,

  "_Opposui molem clypei, texique jacentem_,"

is amplified by a similar witticism,

  "My broad buckler hid him from the foe,
  Even the shield trembled as he lay below."

If, in translating Ovid, Dryden was tempted by the manner of his
original to relapse into a youthful fault, which he had solemnly
repented of and abjured, there is surely room to believe, that the
simple and almost rude manners described by Homer, might have seduced
him into coarseness both of ideas and expression, for which the studied,
composed, and dignified style of the Aeneid gave neither opening nor
apology. That this was a fault which Dryden, with all his taste, never
was able to discard, might easily be proved from various passages in his
translations, where the transgression is on his own part altogether
gratuitous. Such is the well-known version of

    "_Ut possessor agelli
  Diceret, hoec mea sunt, veteres migrate coloni,
  Nune vidi," etc._

  "When the grim captain, with a surly tone,
  Cries out, Pack up, ye rascals, and be gone!
  Kicked out, we set the best face on't we could," etc.

In translating the most indelicate passage of Lucretius, Dryden has
rather enhanced than veiled its indecency. The story of Iphis in the
Metamorphoses is much more bluntly told by the English poet than by
Ovid. In short, where there was a latitude given for coarseness of
description and expression, Dryden has always too readily laid hold of
it. The very specimen which he has given us of a version of Homer,
contains many passages in which the antique Grecian simplicity is
vulgarly and inelegantly rendered. The Thunderer terms Juno

  "My household curse, my lawful plague, the spy
  Of Jove's designs, his other squinting eye."

The ambrosial feast of Olympus concludes like a tavern revel:--

  "Drunken at last, and drowsy, they depart
  Each to his house, adored with laboured art
  Of the lame architect. The thundering God,
  Even he, withdrew to rest, and had his load;
  His swimming head to needful sleep applied,
  And Juno lay unheeded by his side."

There is reason indeed to think, that, after the Revolution, Dryden's
taste was improved in this, as in some other respects. In his
translation of Juvenal, for example, the satire against women, coarse as
it is, is considerably refined and softened from the grossness of the
Latin poet; who has, however, been lately favoured by a still more
elegant, and (excepting perhaps one or two passages) an equally spirited
translation, by Mr. Gifford of London. Yet, admitting this apology for
Dryden as fully as we dare, from the numerous specimens of indelicacy
even in his later translations, we are induced to judge it fortunate
that Homer was reserved for a poet who had not known the age of Charles
II.; and whose inaccuracies and injudicious decorations may be pardoned,
even by the scholar, when he considers the probability, that Dryden
might have slipped into the opposite extreme, by converting rude
simplicity into indecency or vulgarity. The Æneid, on the other hand, if
it restrained Dryden's poetry to a correct, steady, and even flight, if
it damped his energy by its regularity, and fettered his excursive
imagination by the sobriety of its decorum, had the corresponding
advantage of holding forth to the translator no temptation to licence,
and no apology for negligence. Where the fervency of genius is required,
Dryden has usually equalled his original; where peculiar elegance and
exact propriety is demanded, his version may be sometimes found flat and
inaccurate, but the mastering spirit of Virgil prevails, and it is never
disgusting or indelicate. Of all the classical translations we can
boast, none is so acceptable to the class of readers, to whom the
learned languages are a clasped book and a sealed fountain. And surely
it is no moderate praise to say, that a work is universally pleasing to
those for whose use it is principally intended, and to whom only it is
absolutely indispensable.

The prose of Dryden may rank with the best in the English language. It
is no less of his own formation than his versification, is equally
spirited, and equally harmonious. Without the lengthened and pedantic
sentences of Clarendon, it is dignified where dignity is becoming, and
is lively without the accumulation of strained and absurd allusions and
metaphors, which were unfortunately mistaken for wit by many of the
author's contemporaries. Dryden has been accused of unnecessarily
larding his style with Gallicisms. It must be owned that, to comply
probably with the humour of Charles, or from an affectation of the
fashionable court dialect, the poet-laureate employed such words as
_fougue, fraicheur_, etc., instead of the corresponding expressions in
English; an affectation which does not appear in our author's later
writings. But even the learned and excellent Sir David Dalrymple was led
to carry this idea greatly too far. "Nothing," says that admirable
antiquary, "distinguishes the genius of the English language so much as
its general naturalisation of foreigners. Dryden in the reign of Charles
II., printed the following words as pure French newly imported: _amour,
billet-doux, caprice, chagrin, conversation, double-entendre,
embarrassed, fatigue, figure, foible, gallant, good graces, grimace,
incendiary, levée, maltreated, rallied, repartée, ridicule, tender,
tour_; with several others which are now considered as natives.--
'Marriage à la Mode.'"[23] But of these words many had been long
naturalised in England, and, with the adjectives derived from them, are
used by Shakespeare and the dramatists of his age.[24] By their being
printed in italics in the play of "Marriage à la Mode," Dryden only
meant to mark, that Melantha, the affected coquette in whose mouth they
are placed, was to use the _French_, not the vernacular pronunciation.
It will admit of question, whether any single French word has been
naturalised upon the sole authority of Dryden.

Although Dryden's style has nothing obsolete, we can occasionally trace
a reluctance to abandon an old word or idiom; the consequence, doubtless
of his latter studies in ancient poetry. In other respects, nothing can
be more elegant than the diction of the praises heaped upon his patrons,
for which he might himself plead the apology he uses for Maimbourg,
"who, having enemies, made himself friends by panegyrics." Of these
lively critical prefaces, which, when we commence, we can never lay
aside till we have finished, Dr. Johnson has said with equal force and
beauty,--"They have not the formality of a settled style, in which the
first half of the sentence betrays the other. The clauses are never
balanced, nor the periods modelled; every word seems to drop by chance,
though it falls into its proper place. Nothing is cold or languid; the
whole is airy, animated, and vigorous; what is little is gay, what is
great is splendid. He may be thought to mention himself too frequently;
but while he forces himself upon our esteem, we cannot refuse him to
stand high in his own. Everything is excused by the play of images and
the sprightliness of expression. Though all is easy, nothing is feeble;
though all seems careless, there is nothing harsh; and though, since his
earlier works, more than a century has passed, they have nothing yet
uncouth or obsolete."

"He, who writes much, will not easily escape a manner, such a recurrence
of particular modes as may be easily noted. Dryden is always _another
and the same._ He does not exhibit a second time the same elegancies in
the same form, nor appears to have any art other than that of expressing
with clearness what he thinks with vigour. His style could not easily be
imitated, either seriously or ludicrously; for, being always equable and
always varied, it has no prominent or discriminative characters. The
beauty, who is totally free from disproportion of parts and features,
cannot be ridiculed by an overcharged resemblance."

The last paragraph is not to be understood too literally; for although
Dryden never so far copied himself as to fall into what has been
quaintly called _mannerism_; yet accurate observation may trace, in his
works, the repetition of some sentiments and illustrations from prose to
verse, and back again to prose.[24] In his preface to the _Æneid_, he
has enlarged on the difficulty of varying phrases, when the same sense
returned on the author; and surely we must allow full praise to his
fluency and command of language, when, during so long a literary career,
and in the course of such a variety of miscellaneous productions, we can
detect in his style so few instances of repetition, or self-imitation.

The prose of Dryden, excepting his translations, and one or two
controversial tracts, is entirely dedicated to criticism, either general
and didactic, or defensive and exculpatory. There, as in other branches
of polite learning, it was his lot to be a light to his people. About
the time of the Restoration, the cultivation of letters was prosecuted
in France with some energy. But the genius of that lively nation being
more fitted for criticism than poetry; for drawing rules from what
others have done, than for writing works which might be themselves
standards; they were sooner able to produce an accurate table of laws
for those intending to write epic poems and tragedies, according to the
best Greek and Roman authorities, than to exhibit distinguished
specimens of success in either department; just as they are said to
possess the best possible rules for building ships of war, although not
equally remarkable for their power of fighting them. When criticism
becomes a pursuit separate from poetry, those who follow it are apt to
forget, that the legitimate ends of the art for which they lay down
rules, are instruction or delight, and that these points being attained,
by what road soever, entitles a poet to claim the prize of successful
merit. Neither did the learned authors of these disquisitions
sufficiently attend to the general disposition of mankind, which cannot
be contented even with the happiest imitations of former excellence, but
demands novelty as a necessary ingredient for amusement. To insist that
every epic poem shall have the plan of the Iliad and Æneid, and every
tragedy be fettered by the rules of Aristotle, resembles the principle
of an architect, who should build all his houses with the same number of
windows, and of stories. It happened too, inevitably, that the critics,
in the plenipotential authority which they exercised, often assumed as
indispensable requisites of the drama, or epopeia, circumstances, which,
in the great authorities they quoted, were altogether accidental and
indifferent. These they erected into laws, and handed down as essentials
to be observed by all succeeding poets; although the forms prescribed
have often as little to do with the merit and success of the originals
from which they are taken, as the shape of the drinking-glass with the
flavour of the wine which it contains. "To these encroachments," says
Fielding, after some observations to the same purpose, "time and
ignorance, the two great supporters of imposture, gave authority;  and
thus many rules for good writing have been established, which have not
the least foundation in truth or nature; and which commonly serve for no
other purpose than to curb and restrain genius, in the same manner as it
would have restrained the dancing-master, had the many excellent
treatises on that art laid it down as an essential rule, that every man
must dance in chains."[25] It is probable, that the tyranny of the
French critics, fashionable as the literature of that country was with
Charles and his courtiers, would have extended itself over England at
the Restoration, had not a champion so powerful as Dryden placed himself
in the gap. We have mentioned in its place his "Essay on Dramatic
Poetry," the first systematic piece of criticism which our literature
has to exhibit. In this Essay, he was accused of entertaining private
views, of defending some of his own pieces, at least of opening the door
of the theatre wider, and rendering its access more easy, for his own
selfish convenience. Allowing this to be true in whole, as it may be in
part, we are as much obliged to Dryden for resisting the domination of
Gallic criticism, as we are to the fanatics who repressed the despotism
of the crown, although they buckled on their armour against white
surplices, and the cross in baptism. The character which Dryden has
drawn of our English dramatists in the Essay, and the various prefaces
connected with it, have unequalled spirit and precision. The contrast of
Ben Jonson with Shakespeare is peculiarly and strikingly felicitous. Of
the latter portrait, Dr. Johnson has said, that the editors and admirers
of Shakespeare, in all their emulation of reverence, cannot boast of
much more than of having diffused and paraphrased this epitome of
excellence, of having changed Dryden's gold for baser metal, of lower
value, though of greater bulk. While Dryden examined, discussed,
admitted, or rejected the rules proposed by others, he forbore, from
prudence, indolence, or a regard for the freedom of Parnassus, to erect
himself into a legislator. His doctrines, which chiefly respect the
intrinsic qualities necessary in poetry, are scattered, without system
of pretence to it, over the numerous pages of prefatory and didactic
essays, with which he enriched his publications. It is impossible to
read far in any of them, without finding some maxim for doing or
forbearing, which every student of poetry will do well to engrave upon
the tablets of his memory. But the author's mode of instruction is
neither harsh nor dictatorial. When his opinion changed, as in the case
of rhyming tragedies, he avows the change with candour, and we are
enabled the more courageously to follow his guidance, when we perceive
the readiness with which he retracts his path, if he strays into error.
The gleams of philosophical spirit which so frequently illumine these
pages of criticism; the lively and appropriate grace of illustration;
the true and correct expression of the general propositions; the simple
and unaffected passages, in which, when led to allude to his personal
labours and situation, he mingles the feelings of the man with the
instructions of the critic,--unite to render Dryden's Essays the most
delightful prose in the English language.

The didactic criticism of Dryden is necessarily, at least naturally,
mingled with that which he was obliged to pour forth in his own defence;
and this may be one main cause of its irregular and miscellaneous form.
What might otherwise have resembled the extended and elevated front of a
regular palace, is deformed by barriers, ramparts, and bastions of
defence; by cottages, mean additions, and offices necessary for personal
accommodation. The poet, always most in earnest about his immediate
task, used, without ceremony, those arguments, which suited his present
purpose, and thereby sometimes supplied his foes with weapons to assail
another quarter. It also happens frequently, if the same allusion may be
continued, that Dryden defends with obstinate despair, against the
assaults of his foemen, a post which, in his cooler moments, he has
condemned as untenable. However easily he may yield to internal
conviction, and to the progress of his own improving taste, even these
concessions, he sedulously informs us, are not wrung from him by the
assault of his enemies; and he often goes out of his road to show, that,
though conscious he was in the wrong, he did not stand legally convicted
by their arguments. To the chequered and inconsistent appearance which
these circumstances have given to the criticism of Dryden, it is an
additional objection, that through the same cause his studies were
partial, temporary, and irregular. His mind was amply stored with
acquired knowledge, much of it perhaps the fruits of early reading and
application. But, while engaged in the hurry of composition, or overcome
by the lassitude of continued literary labour, he seems frequently to
have trusted to the tenacity of his memory, and so drawn upon this fund
with injudicious liberality, without being sufficiently anxious as to
accuracy of quotation, or even of assertion. If, on the other hand, he
felt himself obliged to resort to more profound learning than his own,
he was at little pains to arrange or digest it, or even to examine
minutely the information he acquired, from hasty perusal of the books he
consulted; and thus but too often poured it forth in the crude form in
which he had himself received it, from the French critic, or Dutch
schoolman. The scholarship, for example, displayed in the Essay on
Satire, has this raw and ill-arranged appearance; and stuck, as it
awkwardly is, among some of Dryden's own beautiful and original writing,
gives, like a borrowed and unbecoming garment, a mean and inconsistent
appearance to the whole disquisition. But these occasional imperfections
and inaccuracies are marks of the haste with which Dryden was compelled
to give his productions to the world, and cannot deprive him of the
praise due to the earliest and most entertaining of English critics.

I have thus detailed the life, and offered some remarks on the literary
character, of JOHN DRYDEN: who, educated in a pedantic taste, and a
fanatical religion, was destined, if not to give laws to the stage of
England, at least to defend its liberties; to improve burlesque into
satire; to free translation from the fetters of verbal metaphrase, and
exclude it from the licence of paraphrase; to teach posterity the
powerful and varied poetical harmony of which their language was
capable; to give an example of the lyric ode of unapproached excellence;
and to leave to English literature a name, second only to those of
Milton and of Shakespeare.

[1] Life and Works of Arthur Maynwaring, 1715, p. 17.

[2] So says Charles Blount, in the dedication to the _Religio Laici_. He
is contradicted by Tom Brown.

[3] In a poem published on Dryden's death, by Brome, written, as Mr.
Malone conjectures, by Captain Gibbon, son of the physician.

[4] In "The Postboy," for Tuesday, May 7, 1700, Playford inserted the
following advertisement:

"The death of the famous John Dryden, Esq., Poet-Laureate to their two
late Majesties, King Charles, and King James the Second, being a subject
capable of employing the best pens; and several persons of quality, and
others, having put a stop to his interment, which is designed to be in
Chaucer's grave, in Westminster Abbey; this is to desire the gentlemen
of the two famous Universities, and others, who have a respect for the
memory of the deceased, and are inclinable to such performances, to send
what copies they please, as Epigrams, etc., to Henry Playford, at his
shop at the Temple 'Change, in Fleet Street, and they shall be inserted
in a Collection, which is designed after the same nature, and in the
same method (in what language they shall please), as is usual in the
composures which are printed on solemn occasions, at the two
Universities aforesaid."

This advertisement (with some alterations) was continued for a month in
the same paper.

  "Thy reliques, Rowe, to this fair urn we trust,
  And sacred place by Dryden's awful dust:
  Beneath a rude and nameless stone he lies,
  To which thy tomb shall guide inquiring eyes:
  Peace to thy gentle shade, and endless rest!
  Blest in thy genius, in thy love too, blest!
  One greatful woman to thy fame supplies,
  What a whole thankless land to his denies."

[6] The epitaph at first intended by Pope for this monument was,

  "This Sheffield raised; the sacred dust below
  Was Dryden once:--the rest, who does not know?"

Atterbury had thus written to him on this subject, in 1720: "What I said
to you in mine, about the monument, was intended only to quicken, not to
alarm you. It is not worth your while to know what I meant by it; but
when I see you, you shall. I hope you may be at the Deanery towards the
end of October, by which time I think of settling there for the winter.
What do you think of some such short inscription as this in Latin, which
may, in a few words, say all that is to be said of Dryden, and yet
nothing more than he deserves?


"To show you that I am as much in earnest in the affair as you yourself,
something I will send you of this kind in English. If your design holds,
of fixing Dryden's name only below, and his busto above, may not lines
like these be graved just under the name?

  This Sheffield raised, to Dryden's ashes just;
  Here fixed his name, and there his laureled bust:
  What else the Muse in marble might express,
  Is known already: praise would make him less.

"Or thus:

  More needs not; when acknowledged merits reign,
  Praise is impertinent, and censure vain."

The thought, as Mr. Malone observes, is nearly the same as in the
following lines in "Luctus Britannici," by William Marston, of Trinity
College, Cambridge:

  "_In_ JOANNEM DRYDEN, _poelarum facile principem._

  Si quis in has aedes intret fortasse viator,
    Busta poetarum dum veneranda notet,
  Cernat et exuvias Drydeni,--plura referre
    Haud opus: ad laudes _vox ea_ sola satis."

[7] Life of Pope.

[8] ["The Bacon of the rhyming tribe," as Landor has since called him in
a vigorous description (_Works_, vol. viii. p. 137).--ED.]

[9] [Transcriber's note: "See page 39" in original. This is to be found
in Section I.]

[10] "_Novimus judicium Drydeni de poemate quodam Chauceri, pulchro sane
illo, et admodum laudando, nimirum quod non modo vere epicura sit, sed
Iliada etiam alque Aeneada aequet, imo superet. Sed novimus eodem
tempore viri illius maximi non semper accuratissimas esse censuras, nec
ad severissimam critices normam exactas: illo judice id plerumque
optimum est, quod nunc prae manibus habet, et in quo nunc occupatur_."

[11] Dryden was not the first who translated this tale of terror. There
is in the collection of the late John, Duke of Roxburghe, "A Notable
History of Nastagio and Traversari, no less pitiful than pleasaunt;
translated out of Italian into English verse, by C.T. London, 1569."

[12] "_Amor puo troppo piu, che ne voi ne io possiamo_." This sentiment
loses its dignity amid the "levelling of mountains and raising plains,"
with which Dryden has chosen to illustrate it.

[13] An emblem of a similar kind is said to have been found in the
palace of Tippoo Sultan.

[14] As "Near bliss, and yet not blessed." And this merciless quibble,
where Arcite complains of the flames he endures for Emily:--

  "Of such a goddess no time leaves record,
  Who burnt the temple where she was adored."--Vol. xi.

Yet Dryden, in the preface, declaims against the "_inopem me copia
fecit_," and similar jingles of Ovid.

[15] [Transcriber's note: "See p. 258" in original. This is to be found
in Section VI.]

  "The longest tyranny that ever swayed,
  Was that wherein our ancestors betrayed
  Their free-born reason to the Stagyrite,
  And made his torch their universal light.
  So truth, while only one supplied the state,
  Grew scarce, and dear, and yet sophisticate.
  Still it was bought, like emp'ric wares, or charms,
  Hard words sealed up with Aristotle's arms."

[17] These I found quaintly summed up in an old rhyme:
  "With a red man read thy rede,
  With a brown man break thy bread,
  On a pale man draw thy knife,
  From a black man keep thy wife."

[18] See the introduction to Britannia Rediviva, vol. x.

[19] Vol. x.

[20] It is twice stated in these volumes (p. 246, and vol. x.), on the
authority of the "Life of Southerne," that Dryden had originally five
guineas for each prologue, and raised the sum to ten guineas on occasion
of Southerne's requiring such a favour for his first play. But I am
convinced the sum is exaggerated; and incline now to believe, with Dr.
Johnson, that the advance was from _two_ to _three_ guineas only. [See
note _supra_, l.c.--ED.]

[21] Life of Lucian, vol. xviii.

[22] [Is it possible that in this famous passage "Veer" is a clerical
error or a misprint for "Ware"? This would at once make sense and a
literal version.--ED.]

[23] Poems from the Bannatyne Manuscript, p. 228.

[24] Shakespeare has _capricious, conversation_, fatigate
(if not _fatigue_), _figure, gallant, good graces; incendiary_ is in
Minshew's "Guide to the Tongues," ed. 1627. _Tender_ often occurs in
Shakespeare both as a substantive and verb. And many other of the above
words may be detected by those who have time and inclination to search
for them, in authors prior to Dryden's time. [See, for a discussion of
Dryden's Gallicisms, vol. xviii. of the present edition.--ED.]

[24] The remarkable phrase, "to possess the soul in patience," occurs in
"The Hind and Panther;" and in the Essay on Satire, vol. xiii., we have
nearly the same expression. The image of a bird's wing flagging in a
damp atmosphere occurs in Don Sebastian, and in prose elsewhere, though
I have lost the reference. The same thought is found in "The Hind and
Panther," but is not there used metaphorically:--

  "Nor need they fear the dampness of the sky
  Should flag their wings, and hinder them to fly."

Dryden is ridiculed by an imitator of Rabelais, for the recurrence of
the phrase by which he usually prefaces his own defensive criticism:
"_If it be allowed me to speak so much in my own commendation;--_ see
Dryden's preface to his Fables, or to any other of his works that you
please." The full title of this whimsical tract, from which Sterne
borrowed several hints, is "An Essay towards the theory of the
intelligible world intuitively considered. Designed for forty-nine
parts. Part Third, consisting of a preface, a postscript, and a little
something between, by Gabriel Johnson; enriched by a faithful account of
his ideal voyages, and illustrated with poems by several hands, as
likewise with other strange things not insufferably clever, nor
furiously to the purpose; printed in the year 17," etc. [The phrase
mentioned first is perhaps less remarkable than Scott's apparent
forgetfulness of its Biblical origin.--ED.]

[25] Introduction to Book Fifth of "Tom Jones."


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