« PreviousContinue »
Brown does not wholly forget past transac- 1 Times were now changed : Dryden was no tions : “ You began,” says Crites to Bayes, “a longer the court poet, and was to look back for very different religion, and have not mended support to his former trade; and having waited the matter in your last choice. It was but rea- about two years, either considering himself as son that your Muse, which appeared first in a discountenanced by the public, or perhaps extyrant's quarrel, should employ her last efforts pecting a second revolution, he produced “ Don to justify the usurpation of the Hind.”
Sebastian” in 1690; and in the next four years Next year the nation was summoned cele- | four dramas more. brate the birth of the Prince. Now was the In 1693 appeared a new version of Juvenal time for Dryden to rouse his imagination, and and Persius. Of Juvenal he translated the first, strain his voice. Happy days were at hand, third, sixth, tenth, and sixteenth satires; and of and he was willing to enjoy and diffuse the an- Persius the whole work. On this occasion he ticipated blessings. He published a poem, filled introduced his two sons to the public, as nurse. with predictions of greatness and prosperity; lings of the Muses. The fourteenth of Juvenal predictions, of which it is not necessary to tell was the work of John, and the seventh of how they have been verified.
Charles Dryden. He prefixed a very ample A few months passed after these joyful notes, preface, in the form of a dedication to Lord and every blossom of Popish Hope was blasted Dorset; and there gives an account of the defor ever by the Revolution. A papist now sign which he had once formed to write an epic could be no longer laureat. The revenue, poem on the actions either of Arthur, or the which he had enjoyed with so much pride and Black Prince. He considered the epic as necespraise, was transferred to Shadwell, an old ene- sarily including some kind of supernatural agenmy, whom he had formerly stigmatized by the cy, and had imagined a new kind of contest bename of Og. Dryden could not decently com- tween the guardian angels of kingdoms, of whom plain that he was deposed; but seemed very he conceived that each might be represented angry that Shadwell succeeded him, and has zealous for his charge, without any intended therefore celebrated the intruder's inauguration opposition to the purposes of the Supreme Bein a poem exquisitely satirical, called “ Macing, of which all created minds must in part Flecknoe;'
;"* of which the “ Dunciad,” as Pope be ignorant. himself declares, is an imitation, though more
This is the most reasonable scheme of celesextended in its plan, and more diversified in its tial interposition that ever was formed. The incidents.
surprises and terrors of enchantments, which It is related by Prior, that Lord Dorset, have succeeded to the intrigues and oppositions when as chamberlain he was constrained to eject of pagan deities, afford very striking scenes, and Dryden from his office, gave him from his own open a vast extent to the imagination; but, as purse an allowance equal to the salary. This Boileau observes (and Boileau will be seldom is no romantic or incredible act of generosity; found mistaken), with this incurable defect, a hundred a year is often enough given to claims that, in a contest between Heaven and Hell, less cogent by men less famed for liberality. we know at the beginning which is to pre
we follow Rinaldo to Yet Dryden always represented himself as suf-vail; for this reason fering under a public infliction; and once par- the enchanted wood with more curiosity than ticularly demands respect for the patience with terror. which he endured the loss his little fortune.
In the scheme of Dryden, there is one great His patron might, indeed, enjoin him to sup- difficulty, which yet he would, perhaps, have
In a war press his bounty; but, if he suffered nothing, had address enough to surmount. he should not have complained.
justice can be but on one side; and, to entitle During the short reign of King James, he the hero to the protection of angels, he must had written nothing for the stage,t being, in fight in defence of indubitable right. Yet some his opinion, more profitably employed in con.
of the celestial beings, thus opposed to each otroversy and flattery. Of praise he might, per- ther, must have been represented as defending baps, have been less lavish without inconve- guilt. nience, for James was never said to have much That this poem was never written, is reasonregard for poetry; he was to be flattered only ably to be lamented. It would doubtless have by adopting bis religion.
improved our numbers, and enlarged our language ; and might perhaps have contrib by
pleasing instructions to rectify our opinions, and • All Dryden's biographers have misdated this purify our manners. poem, which Mr. Malone's more accurate researches
What he required as the indispensable condi. prove to have been published on the 4th of October, tion of such an undertaking, a public stipend, 1682.-C.
was not likely in these times to be obtained. + “ Albion and Albanius” must however be ex- Riches were not become familiar to us; nor had cepted.-R.
the nation yet learned to be liberal.
This plan he charged Blackmore with steal-, den’s widow, that he would make a present of
1 ing; “ only,” says he, “ the guardian angels of the ground, which was forty pounds, with all kingdoms were machines too ponderous for him the other Abbey-fees. The Lord Halifax liketo manage.”
wise sent to the Lady Elizabeth, and Mr. In 1694, he began the most laborious and Charles Dryden her son, that, if they would difficult of all his works, the translation of Vir- give him leave to bury Mr. Dryden, he would gil; from which he borrowed two months, that inter him with a gentleman's private funeral, he might turn Fresnoy's “ Art of Painting and afterwards bestow five hundred pounds on into English prose. The preface, which he a monument in the Abbey; which, as they boasts to have written in twelve mornings, ex- had no reason to refuse, they accepted. On the hibits a parallel of poetry and painting, with a Saturday following the company came; the miscellaneous collection of critical remarks, such corpse was put into a velvet hParse; and as cost a mind stored like his no labour to pro- eighteen mourning coaches, filled with company, duce them.
attended. When they were just ready to In 1697, he published his version of the works move, the Lord Jefferies, son of the Lord of Virgil; and, that no opportunity of profit Chancellor Jefferies, with some of his rakish might be lost, dedicated the “ Pastorals” to the companions, coming by, asked whose funeral it Lord Clifford, the “ Georgics" to the Earl of was: and, being told Mr. Dryden's, he said, Chesterfield, and the “ Æneid” to the Earl of What, shall Dryden, the greatest honour and Mulgrave. This economy of flattery, at once ornament of the nation, be buried after this lavish and discreet, did not pass without obser- private manner! No, gentlemen, let all that vation.
loved Mr. Dryden, and honour his memory, This translation was censured by Milbourne, alight and join with me in gaining my Lady's a clergyman, styled by Pope “ the fairest of consent to let me have the honour of his intercritics,” because he exhibited his own ver- ment, which shall be after another manner than sion to be compared with that which he con- this; and I will bestow a thousand pounds on demned.
a monument in the Abbey for him.' The genHis last work was his “ Fables,” published tlemen in the coaches, not knowing of the in consequence, as is supposed, of a contract Bishop of Rochester's favour, nor of the Lord now in the hands of Mr. Tonson: by which he Halifax's generous design (they both having, obliged himself, in consideration of three hun out of respect to the family, enjoined the Lady dred pounds, to finish for the press ten thousand Elizabeth, and her son, to keep their favour
concealed to the world, and let it pass for their In this volume is comprised the well-known own expense), readily came out of their coaches, “ Ode on St. Cecilia's Day,” which, as appear- and attended Lord Jefferies up to the Lady's ed by a letter communicated to Dr. Birch, he bedside, who was then sick. He repeated the spent a fortnight in composing and correcting. purport of what he had before said; but she But what is this to the patience and diligence of absolutely refusing, he fell on his knees, vowing Boileau, whose “ Equivoque," a poem of only never to rise till his request was granted. The three hundred and forty-six lines, took from his rest of the company by his desire kneeled also; life eleven months to write it, and three years and the Lady, being under a sudden surprise, to revise it?
fainted away. As soon as she recovered her Part of his book of “ Fables” is the first speech, she cried, No, no: “Enough, gentlemen,' “ Iliad” in English, intended as a specimen of replied he; ' my Lady is very good, she says, a version of the whole. Considering into what Go, go.' She repeated her former words with hands Homer was to fall, the reader cannot but all her strength, but in vain, for her feeble voice rejoice that this project went no further. was lost in their acclamations of joy; and the
The time was now at hand which was to put Lord Jefferies ordered the hearsemen to carry an end to all his schemes and labours. On the the corpse to Mr. Russel's, an undertaker in first of May, 1701, having been some time, as Cheapside, and leave it there till he should send he tells us, a cripple in his limbs, he died, in orders for the embalmment, which, he added, Gerard Street, of a mortification in his leg. should be after the royal manner. His direc
There is extant a wild story relating to some tions were obeyed, the company dispersed, vexatious events that happened at bis funeral, and Lady Elizabeth and her son remained · which, at the end of Congreve's Life, by a inconsolable. The next day Mr. Charles writer of I know not what credit, are thus re- Dryden waited on the Lord Halifax and the lated, as I find the account transferred to a Bishop, to excuse his mother and himself, biographical dictionary:
by relating the real truth. But neither his “ Mr. Dryden dying on the Wednesday morn- Lordship nor the Bishop would udmit of any ing, Dr. Thomas Sprat; then bishop of Ro- plea; especially the latter, who had the Abchester and dean of Westminster, sent the next bey lighted, the ground opened, the choir atday to the Lady Elizabeth Howard, Mr. Dry- tending, an anthem ready set, and himself wait
ing for some time without any corpse to bury. Supposing the story true, we may remark, The undertaker, after three days expectance of that the gradual change of manners, though im. orders for embalment without receiving any, perceptible in the process, appears great when waited on the Lord Jefferies; who, pretending different times, and those not very distant, are ignorance of the matter, turned it off with an compared. If at this time a young drunken ill-natured jest, saying, that those who observed Lord should interrupt the pompous regularity of the orders of a drunken frolic deserved no better; a magnificent funeral, what would be the event he remembered nothing at all of it; and that he but that he would be justled out of the
and might do what he pleased with the corpse. Upon compelled to be quiet? If he should thrust himself this, the undertaker waited upon the Lady Eliza- into a house he would be sent roughly away; and beth and her son, and threatened to bring the what is yet more to the honour of the present corpse home, and set it before the door. They time, I believe that those, who had subscribed to desired, a day's respite, which was granted. Mr. the funeral of a man like Dryden, would not, for Charles Dryden wrote a handsome letter to the such an accident, have withdrawn their contriLord Jefferies, who returned it with this cool
butions. * answer : That he knew nothing of the matter,
He was buried among the poets in Westminand would be troubled no more about it. He ster Abbey, where, though the Duke of Newthen addressed the Lord Halifax and the Bishop castle had, in a general dedication prefixed by of Rochester, who absolutely refused to do any Congreve to his dramatic works, accepted thanks thing in it. In this distress Dr. Garth sent for for his intention of erecting him a monument, the corpse to the College of Physicians, and pro- he lay long without distinction, till the duke of posed a funeral by subscription, to which him- Buckinghamshire gave him a tablet, inscribed self set a most noble example. At last a day, only with the name of DRYDEN. about three weeks after Mr. Dryden's decease,
He married the Lady Elizabeth Howard, was appointed, for the interment. Dr. Garth daughter to the Earl of Berkshire, with cirpronounced a fine Latin oration, at the College, cumstances, according to the satire imputed to over the corpse ; which was attended to the Ab- Lord Somers, not very honourable to either bey by a numerous train of coaches. When the party : by her he had three sons, Charles, John, funeral was over, Mr. Charles Dryden sent a and Henry. Charles was usher of the palace to challenge to the Lord Jefferies, who refusing to Pope Clement the XIth ; and visiting England, answer it, he sent several others and went often in 1704, was drowned in an attempt to swim himself; but could neither get a letter delivered across the Thames at Windsor. nor admittance to speak to him ; which so in- John was author of a comedy called “ The censed him, that he resolved, since his Lord-Husband his own Cuckold.” He is said to have ship refused to answer him like a gentleman, died at Rome. Henry entered into some relithat he would watch an opportunity to meet gious order. It is some proof of Dryden's sinand fight off-hand, though with all the rules of cerity, in his second religion, that he taught it to honour ; which his Lordship hearing, left the his sons. A man, conscious of hypocritical protown : and Mr. Charles Dryden could never fession in himself, is not likely to convert others; have the satisfaction of meeting him, though he and, as his sons were qualified, in 1693, to apsought it till his death with the utmost applica- pear among the translators of Juvenal, they tion.”
must have been taught some religion before their This story I once intended to omit, as it ap
father's change. pears with no great evidence ; nor have I met Of the person of Dryden I know not any acwith any confirmation, but in a letter of Far- count; of his mind, the portrait, which has been quhar; and he only relates that the funeral of left by Congreve, who knew him with great faDryden was tumultuary and confused. * miliarity, is such as adds our love of his man
ners to our admiration of his genius. “He was,'
we are told, “ of a nature exceedingly humane • An earlier account of Dryden's funeral than that above cited, though without the circumstances that preceded it, is given by Edward Ward, who in his cause of Dryden's death was an inflammation in his « Lundon Spy," published in 1706, relates, that on toe, occasioned by the flesh growing over the nail, the occasion there was a performance of solemn which, being neglected, produced a mortification in music at the College, and that at the procession, his leg.-H. which himself saw, standing at the end of Chancery • In the Register of the College of Physicians, 18 lane, Fleet-street, there was a concert of laatboys the following entry : “ May 3, 1700. Comitiis Cenand trumpets. The day of Dryden's interment, he soriis ordinariis. At the request of several persons says, was Monday, the 13th of May, which, accord- of quality, that Mr. Dryden might be carried from ing to Johngon, was twelve days after his decease, the College of Physicians to be interred at Westminand shows how long his funeral was in suspense. ster, it was unanimously granted by the President Ward knew not that the expense of it was defray- and Censors." ed by subscription ; but compliments Lord Jefferies This entry is not calculated to afford any credit to for so pious an undertaking. He also says, that the the narrative concerning Lord Jefferies.-R.
and compassionate, ready to forgive injuries, Tradition, however, has not allowed that his and capable of a sincere reconciliation with those confidence in himself exempted him from jealwho had offended him. His friendship, where ousy of others. He is accused of envy and inhe professed it, went beyond his profession. He sidiousness; and is particularly charged with was of a very easy, of very pleasing access ; but inciting Creech to translate Horace that he somewhat slow, and, as it were, diffident in his might lose the reputation which Lucretius had advances to others : he had that in nature which given him. abhorred intrusion into any society whatever. Of this charge we immediately discover that He was therefore less known, and consequently it is merely conjectural; the purpose was such his character became more liable to misappre- as no man would confess; and a crime that adhensions and misrepresentations : he was very mits no proof, why should we believe? inodest, and very easily to be discountenanced He has been described as magisterially prein his approaches to his equals or superiors. As siding over the younger writers, and assuming kis reading had been very extensive, so was he the distribution of poetical fame; but he who very happy in a memory tenacious of every thing excels has a right to teach, and he whose judgthat he had read. He was not more possessed ment is incontestible may without usurpation of knowledge than he was communicative of it; examine and decide. but then his communication was by no means Congreve represents him as ready to advise pedantic, or imposed upon the conversation, but and instruct; but there is reason to believe that just such, and went so far, as, by the natural his communication was rather useful than enturn of the conversation in which he was en- tertaining. He declares of himself that he was gaged, it was necessarily promoted or required. saturnine, and not one of those whose sprightly He was extremely ready and gentle in his cor- sayings diverted company; and one of his cenrection of the errors of any writer who thought surers makes him say, fit to consult him, and full as ready and patient to admit the reprehensions of others, in respect
Nor wine nor love could ever see me gay;
To writing bred, I knew not what to say. of his own oversights or mistakes."
To this account of Congreve nothing can be There are men whose powers operate only at objected but the fondness of friendship; and to leisure and in retirement, and whose intellectual have excited that fondness in such a mind is no vigour deserts them in conversation; whom small degree of praise. The disposition of Dry-merriment confuses, and objection disconcerts : den, however, is shown in this character rather whose bashfulness restrains their exertion, and as it exhibited itself in cursory conversation, suffers them not to speak till the time of speakthan as it operated on the more important parts ing is past; or whose attention to their own of life. His placability and his friendship in character makes them unwilling to utter at deed were solid virtues; but courtesy and good hazard what has not been considered, and canhumour are often found with little real worth. not be recalled. Since Congreve, who knew him well, has told Of Dryden's sluggishness in conversation it us no more, the rest must be collected as it can
is vain to search or to guess the cause. from other testimonies, and particularly from tainly wanted neither sentiments nor language; those notices which Dryden has very liberally his intellectual treasures were great, though given us of himself.
they were locked up from his own use. The modesty which made him so slow to ad- thoughts," when he wrote, “flowed in upon vance, and so easy to be repulsed, was certainly him so fast, that his only care was which to no suspicion of deficient merit, or unconcious- choose, and which to reject.” Such rapidity of ness of his own value: he appears to have composition naturally promises a flow of talk ; known, in its whole extent, the dignity of his yet we must be content to believe what an enemy own character, and to have set a very high value says of him, when he likewise says it of himself. on his own powers and performances. He pro- But, whatever was his character as a combably did not offer his conversation, because he panion, it appears that he lived in familiarity expected it to be solicited ; and he retired from with the highest persons of his time.
It is rea cold reception, not submissive but indignant, lated, by Carte, of the Duke of Ormond, that with such deference of his own greatness as he used often to pass a night with Dryden, and made him unwilling to expose it to neglect or those with whom Dryden consorted; who they violation.
were, Carte has not told, but certainly the conHis modesty was by no means inconsistent vival table at which Ormond sat was not sur. with ostentatiousness; he is diligent enough to rounded with a plebeian society. He was inremind the world of his merit, and expresses deed reproached with boasting of his familiarity with very little scruple his high opinion of his with the great: and Horace will support him own powers; but his self-commendations are in the opinion that to please superiors is not the read without scorn or indignation ; we allow lowest kind of merit. his claims, and love his frankness.
The merit of pleasing must, however, be esti.
mated by the means. Favour is not always always intermingled a strain of discontent and gained by good actions or laudable qualities. lamentation, a sullen growl of resentinent, or a Caresses and preferments are often bestowed on querulous murmur of distress. His works are the auxiliaries of vice, the procurers of pleasure, undervalued, his merit is unrewarded, and “he or the flatterers of vanity. Dryden has never has few thanks to pay bis stars that he was been charged with any personal agency un- born among Englishmen.” To his critics he worthy of a good character : he abetted vice is sometimes contemptuous, sometimes resentand vanity only with his pen. One of his ene- | ful, and sometimes submissive. The writer mies has accused him of lewdness in his con- who thinks his works formed for duration, misversation ; but it accusation without proof be takes his interest when he mentions his enemies. credited, who shall be innocent?
He degrades his own dignity by showing that His works afford too many examples of dis- he was affected by their censures, and gives lastsolute licentiousness, and abject 'adulation; but ing importance to names, which left to themthey were probably, like his merriment, artiti- selves, would vanish from remembrance. From cial and constrained; the effects of study and this principle Dryden did not often depart; his meditation, and his trade rather than his plea- complaints are for the greater part general; he
seldom pollutes his pages with an adverse name. Of the mind that can trade in corruption, and He condescended indeed to a controversy with can deliberately pollute itself with ideal wicked- Settle, in which he perhaps may be considered ness for the sake of spreading the contagion in rather as assaulting than repelling; and since society, I wish not to conceal or excuse the de- Settle is sunk into oblivion, bis libel remains pravity. Such degradation of the dignity of injurious only to himself. genius, such abuse of superlative abilities, can- Among answers to critics no poetical attacks, not be contemplated but with grief and indigna- or altercations, are to be included; they are like tion. What consolation can be had, Dryden other poems, effusions of genius, produced as has afforded, by living to repent, and to testify much to obtain praise as to obviate censure. his repentance.
These Dryden practised, and in these he exOf dramatic immorality he did not want ex- celled. amples among his predecessors, or companions Of Collier, Blackmore, and Milbourne, he among his contemporaries; but, in the mean- has made mention in the preface of his “ Faness and servility of hyperbolical adulation, I bles.” To the censure of Collier, whose remarks know not whether, since the days in which the may be rather termed admonitions than critiRoman emperors were deified, he has been ever cisms, he makes little reply; being, at the age equalled, except by Afia Behn in an address to of sixty-eight, attentive to better things than Eleanor Gwyn. When once he has under the claps of a playhouse. He complains of Coltaken the task of praise, he no longer retains lier's rudeness, and the “ horse-play of his railshame iu himself, nor supposes it in his patron. lery;"and asserts, that, “ in many places he has As many odoriferous bodies are observed to dif- perverted by his glosses the meaning” of what fuse perfumes from year to year, without sen
he censures ;
but in other things he confesses sible diminution of bulk or weight, he appears that he is justly taxed; and says, with great never to have impoverished his mint of Hattery calmness and candour, “ I have pleaded guilty by his expenses, however lavish. He had all to all thoughts or expressions of mine that can the forms of excellence, intellectual and moral, be truly accused of obscenity, immorality, or combined in his mind, with endless variation; profaneness, and retract them. If he be my and, when he had scattered on the hero of the enemy, let him triumph; if he be my friend, day the golden shower of wit and virtue, he had he will be glad of my repentance." Yet as our ready for him, whom he wished to court on the best dispositions are imperfect, he left standing morrow, new wit and virtue with another in the same book a reflection on Collier of great stamp. Of this kind of meanness he never asperity, and indeed of more asperity than wit. seems to decline the practice, or lament the ne- Blackmore he represents as made his enemy cessity: he considers the great as entitled to en- by the poem of “ Absalom and Achitophel,” comiastic homage, and brings praise rather as a which “ he thinks a little hard upon his fanatic tribute than a gift, more delighted with the fer- patrons :" and charges him with borrowing the tility of his invention, than mortified by the plan of his “ Arthur” from the Preface to Ju. prostitution of his judgment. It is indeed not venal, “ though he had,” says
“ the basecertain, that on these occasions his judgment ness not to acknowledge his benefactor, but inmuch rebelled against his interest. There are stead of it to traduce me in a libel.” minds which easily sink into submission, that The libel in which Blackmore traduced him look on grandeur with undistinguishing rever- was a “ Satire upon Wit;" in which, having ence, and discover no defect where there is ele- | lamented the exuberance of false wit and the vation of rank and affluence of riches.
deficiency of true, he proposes that all wit With his praises of others and of himself is I should be recoined before it is current, and ap