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but certainly the convivial table at which Ormond sat was not surrounded with a plebeian society. He was indeed reproached with boasting of his familiarity with the great; and Horace will support him in the opinion that to please superiors is not the lowest kind of merit 1.

The merit of pleasing must, however, be estimated by the means. Favour is not always gained by good actions or laudable qualities. Caresses and preferments are often bestowed on the auxiliaries of vice, the procurers of pleasure, or the flatterers of vanity. Dryden has never been charged with any personal agency unworthy of a good character: he abetted vice and vanity only with his pen. One of his enemies has accused him of lewdness in his conversation; but if accusation without proof be credited, who shall be innocent 3 ?

His works afford too many examples of dissolute licentiousness and abject adulation; but they were probably, like his merriment, artificial and constrained-the effects of study and meditation, and his trade rather than his pleasure *.

171. Of the mind that can trade in corruption, and can deliberately pollute itself with ideal wickedness for the sake of spreading the contagion in society, I wish not to conceal or excuse the depravity. -Such degradation of the dignity of genius, such abuse of superlative abilities, cannot be contemplated but with grief and

in 1851 in six volumes octavo-with-
out an index.

Dryden dedicated his Plutarch to
the first Duke and his Fables to the
second Duke. Works, xi. 197; xvii.
5. See also post, DRYDEN, 188.
'Principibus placuisse viris non
ultima laus est.'

HORACE, Epis. i. 17. 35.
a 'Set up for wit and awkwardly was
lewd.' Satyr to his Muse, p. 3.
3 Dryden, a few years before his
death, wrote to Dennis:-'I appeal
to the world if I have deceived or
defrauded any man; and for my
private conversation, they who see
me every day can be the best wit-
nesses whether or no it be blameless
and inoffensive.' Works, xviii. 118.
Conversation, as here used, is defined
by Johnson as 'behaviour; manner
of acting in common life.'

'Dryden was in company the
modestest man that ever conversed.'

Gent. Mag. 1745, P. 99.

'I have frequently heard it offered in his favour that his necessities obliged him to a constancy of writing for the entertainment of the town, the taste of which was very much depraved? JACOB, Poet. Register, i. 86.

Burnet (Hist. of my Own Time, i. 300) describes him as a monster of immodesty and of impurity of all sorts.' Lord Lansdowne, defending him, said: 'He was so much a stranger to immodesty that modesty in too great a degree was his failing. He was a man of regular life and conversation, as all his acquaintance can vouch.' Letter to the Author of the Reflexions Historical and Political, &c., p. 5, quoted in Biog. Brit. p. 1760. For Lansdowne's indecency in one of his plays see post, GRANVILLE, 10.

indignation. What consolation can be had Dryden has afforded, by living to repent, and to testify his repentance 2.

Of dramatick immorality he did not want examples among his 172 predecessors, or companions among his contemporaries3; but in the meanness and servility of hyperbolical adulation I know not whether, since the days in which the Roman emperors were deified, he has been ever equalled, except by Afra Behn in an address to Eleanor Gwynt. When once he has undertaken the task of praise he no longer retains shame in himself, nor supposes it in his patron 5. As many odoriferous bodies are observed to diffuse perfumes from year to year without sensible diminution of bulk or weight, he appears never to have impoverished his mint of flattery by his expences, however lavish. He had all forms of excellence, intellectual and moral, combined in his mind, with endless variation; and when he had scattered on the hero of the day the golden shower of wit and virtue, he had ready for him, whom he wished to court on the morrow, new wit and virtue with another stamp. Of this kind of meanness

''Writers of great talents, who employ their parts in propagating immorality, and seasoning vicious sentiments with wit and humour, are to be looked upon as the pest of society and the enemies of mankind: they leave books behind them (as it is said of those who die in distempers which breed an ill will towards their own species) to scatter infection and destroy their posterity.' ADDISON, The Spectator, No. 166.

2

"O gracious God! how far have we Profaned thy heavenly gift of poesy !

Made prostitute and profligate the
Muse,

Debased to each obscene and im-
pious use,

Whose harmony was first ordained above

For tongues of angels, and for hymns of love !'

Ode to Mrs. Killigrew, Works, xi. 107.

Dryden, after writing this, went on 'debasing his Muse.' See also ib. xi. 231, and post, DRYDEN, 175, for his penitence in the Preface to his last work.

3 Evelyn wrote in 1666 (Diary, ii.

19) that he 'very seldom went to the public theatres as they were abused to an atheistical liberty foul and undecent women now (and never till now) permitted to appear and act.'

Cibber (Apology, p. 155), writing of the stage half a century later, says that ladies rarely came upon the first days of acting a new comedy but in masks, until they had been assured they might do it without the risk of an insult to their modesty.'

Prefixed to The Feign'd Curtizans, 1679. Malone's Dryden, i. 2. 323. Pope in The Guardian, No. 4, attacks this prostitution of praise,' in dedications.

5' Burnet treats the Duke of Leeds severely; the Peerage [Collins, 1756, i. 252] vindicates him by a dedication of Dryden's [Works, v. 316], which one must allow is authority to such a book; for nothing can exceed the flattery of a genealogist but that of a dedicator.' HORACE WALPOLE, Works, i. 423.

• Ante, DRYDEN, 88. set his genius to sale.' 270.

'Pope never
Post, POPE,

178

he never seems to decline the practice, or lament the necessity: he considers the great as entitled to encomiastick 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 judgement'. It is indeed not certain that on these occasions his judgement much rebelled against his interest. There are minds which easily sink into submission, that look on grandeur with undistinguishing reverence, and discover no defect where there is elevation of rank and affluence of riches.

With his praises of others and of himself is always intermingled a strain of discontent and lamentation, a sullen growl of resentment, or a querulous murmur of distress. His works are undervalued, his merit is unrewarded, and he has few thanks to pay his stars that he was born among Englishmen 3. To his criticks he is sometimes contemptuous, sometimes resentful, and sometimes submissive. The writer who thinks his works formed for duration mistakes his interest when he mentions his enemies. He degrades his own dignity by shewing that he was affected by their censures, and gives lasting importance to names 5 which, left to themselves, would vanish from remembrance. From this principle Dryden did not oft depart; his complaints are for the greater part general; he seldom pollutes his page

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opinion of the world.
For my
comfort they are but Englishmen ;
and as such if they think ill of me
to-day, they are inconstant enough
to think well of me to-morrow. And
after all I have not much to thank
my fortune that I was born amongst
them.' Scott's Dryden, 1821, xi,
125.1

Boswell believed that Johnson only once in the whole course of his life condescended to oppose anything that was written against him.' Boswell's Johnson, i. 314. See also ib. ii. 61; v. 274 ; John. Misc. i. 270 ; John. Letters, ii. 148; post, ADDISON, 70.

5 I have seldom answered any scurrilous lampoon, when it was in my power to have exposed my enemies; and, being naturally vindicative, have suffered in silence, and possessed my soul in quiet.' Works, xiii. 83.

For pollutes see post, POPE,

with an adverse name. He condescended indeed to a controversy with Settle', in which he perhaps may be considered rather as assaulting than repelling; and since Settle is sunk into oblivion his libel remains injurious only to himself.

Among answers to criticks no poetical attacks or altercations 174 are to be included: they are, like other poems, effusions of genius, produced as much to obtain praise as to obviate censure. These Dryden practised, and in these he excelled.

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Of Collier, Blackmore, and Milbourne he has made mention 175 in the preface to his Fables. To the censure of Collier, whose remarks may be rather termed admonitions than criticisms, he makes little reply; being, at the age of sixty-eight, attentive to better things than the claps of a playhouse3. He complains of Collier's rudeness, and the horse-play of his raillery'; and asserts that 'in many places he has perverted by his glosses the meaning' of what he censures*; but in other things he confesses that he is justly taxed, and says, with great calmness and candour, 'I have pleaded guilty to all thoughts or [and] expressions of mine that [which] can be truly accused [argued] of obscenity, immorality, or profaneness, 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". Yet, as our best dispositions are imperfect, he left standing in the same book a reflection on Collier of great asperity, and indeed of more asperity than wit o.

254; Boswell's Johnson, i. 330; iv. 404 n. 'The word is a wide one,' wrote Byron. Byron's Works, 1854, ix. 61.

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Ante, DRYDEN, 42.

* Works, xi. 240-4. See also his Epistle to Motteux, xi. 67. For Collier see post, CONGREVE, 18; for Blackmore see ante, DRYDEN, 145; post, BLACKMORE, 14; and for Milbourne see ante, DRYDEN, 148; post, 306.

36 'Dryden and Settle had both placed their happiness in the claps of multitudes.' Ante, DRYDEN, 42.

'In many places he has perverted my meaning by his glosses, and interpreted my words into blasphemy and bawdry of which they were not guilty; besides that he is too much given to horseplay in his raillery, and comes to battle like a

LIVES OF POETS. I

Dd

dictator from the plough.' Works,
xi. 243. See post, ADDISON, 153.

5 If Dryden was a sincere Roman
Catholic he may well have been
scared at Collier's attack on Absalom
and Achitophel, 11. 19, 20:-

'This is downright defiance of the Living God! Here you have the very essence and spirit of blasphemy, and the Holy Ghost brought in upon the most hideous occasion. I question whether the torments and despair of the damned dare venture at such flights as these. They are beyond description; I pray God they may not be beyond pardon too.' A Short View of the English Stage, 3rd ed. p. 184.

6 Works, xi. 243. Dryden's last Epilogue, written just before his death, begins (ib. viii. 502) :

176 Blackmore he represents as made his enemy by the poem of Absalom and Achitophel, which 'he thinks a little hard upon [on] his fanatick patrons [in London]'; and charges him with borrowing the plan of his Arthur from the preface to Juvenal, ' though he had,' says he, 'the baseness not to acknowledge his benefactor, but instead of it to traduce me in a libel.'

177 The libel in which Blackmore traduced him was a Satire upon Wit, in which, having lamented the exuberance of false wit and the deficiency of true, he proposes that all wit should be recoined before it is current, and appoints masters of assay who shall reject all that is light or debased.

178

''Tis true, that when the coarse and worthless dross

Is purg'd away, there will be mighty loss;

Ev'n Congreve, Southern, manly Wycherley 3,
When thus refin'd, 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 purg'd away!'

Thus stands the passage in the last edition; but in the original
there was an abatement of the censure, beginning thus:

'But what remains will be so pure, 'twill bear
Th' examination of the most severe *.'

Blackmore, finding the censure resented and the civility disre-
garded, ungenerously omitted the softer part. Such variations

discover a writer who consults his passions more than his virtue ; and it may be reasonably supposed that Dryden imputes his enmity to its true cause 5.

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in general terms, such as are

go off the stage unpitied, complaining of neglect and poverty, the just punishment of his wit and folly.' Malone's Dryden, iii. 647. For Blackmore's poem see post, BLACKMORE, 17. Dryden replied to it in his last Prologue. Malone's Dryden, i. 333 ; Works, viii. 481.

3 The poets' names are printed C-e, S―n, W—ly, D—n. Ã Satyr against Wit, 1700, p. 7.

Blackmore's Collection of Poems, 1718, p. 89. The title of the poem is changed into A Satyre upon Wit. 5 Post, BLACKMORE, 19.

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