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one of the Westminster scholarships at Cambridge *.
Of his school performances has appeared only a poem on the death of Lord Hastings, composed with great ambition of such conceits as, notwithstanding the reformation begun by Wäller and Denham, the example of Cowley still kept in reputation. Lord Hastings died of the small-pox; and his poet has made of the pustules first rosebuds, and then gems; at last exalts them into stars ;
No comet need foretell his change drew on, Whose corpfe might seem a constellation.
At the university he does not appear to have been eager of poetical distinction, or to have lavished his early wit either on fi&titious subjects or public occasions. bably considered, that he who propofed to be an author, ought first to be a student. He obtained, whatever was the reason, no fellowship in the College. Why he was ex
* He went off to Trinity College, and was admitted to a Bachelor's Degree in 1653. H.
cluded cannot now be known, and it is vain to guess ; had he thought himself injured, he knew how to complain. In the life of Plutarch he mentious his education in' the College with gratitude ; but, in a prologue at Oxford, he has these lines :
Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
It was not till the death of Cromwell, iii 1658, that he became a public candidate for fame, by publishing Heroic Stanzas on the late Lord Protector ; which, compared with the verses of Sprat and Waller on the same occafion; were sufficient to raise great expectations of the rifilig poet.
When the king was restored, Dryden, like the other panegyrists of usurpation, changed his opinion, or his profession, and published ASTREA Redux; a poem on the happy Restoration and Return of his mot facred Majesty King Charles the Second.
The reproach of inconstancy was, on this occasion, Ihared with such numbers, that it produced neither hatred nor disgrace! if he changed, he changed with the nation. It was, however, not totally forgotten when his reputation raised him enemies.
The same year he praised the new king in a second poem on his restoration. In the ASTREA was the line,
An horrid stillness first invades the ear,
for which he was persecuted with perpetual ridicule, perhaps with more than was deserved. Silenče is indeed mere privation ; and, fo considered, cannot invade; but privation likewise certainly is darkness, and probably cold; yet poetry has never been refused the right of ascribing effects or agency to them as to positive powers. scruples to say that darkness hinders him from his work; or that cold has killed the plants. Death is also privation; yet who has made any difficulty of assigning to Death a dart and the power of striking?
In settling the order of his works there is some difficulty ; for, even when they are important enough to be formally offered to a patron, he does not comino: ly date his dedication; the time of writing and publishing is not always the same; nor can the first editions be easily found, if even from them could be obtained the necessary information.
The time at which his first play was exhibited is not certainly known, because it was not printed till it was some
afterwards altered and revived ; but since the plays are said to be printed in the order in which they were written, from the dates of some, those of others may be inferred; and thus it may be collected, that in 1663, in the thirty-second year of his life, he commenced a writer for the stage; compelled undoubtedly by necefsity, for he appears never to have loved that exercise of his genius, or to have much pleased himself with his own dramas.
of the stage, when he had once invaded it, he kept poffefsion for many years ; not indeed without the competition of rivals who sometimes prevailed, or the censure of
criticks, which was often poignant and often just; but with such a degree of reputation as made him at least secure of being heard, whatever might be the final determination of the publick.
His first piece was a comedy called the Wild Gallant. He began with no happy auguries ; for his performance was so much disapproved, that he was compelled to recall it, and change it from its imperfect ftate to the form in which it now appears, and which is yet fufficiently defective to vindicate the criticks.
I wish that there were no necessity of following the progress of his theatrical fame, or tracing the meanders of his mind through the whole series of his dramatick performances ; it will be fit, however, to enumerate them, and to take especial notice of those that are diftinguithed by any peculiarity, intrinsick or concomitant; for the composition and fate of eight-and-twenty dramas include too much of a poetical life to be omitted.