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An horrid sillness first invades the ear,
And in that silence we a tempest fear, for which he was persecuted with perpetual ridicule, perhaps with more than was deserved. Silence is indeed mere privation ; and, so 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. No man fcruples to say that darkness hinders him from his work; or that cold has killed the plants. Death is also privation, yet who has made
difficulty of afligning to Death a dart and the power
In settling the order of his works, there is fome difficulty; for, even when they are important enough to be formally offered to a patron, he does not commonly 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 exhibitcd is not certainly known, because it was not
printed till it was some
years afterwards altered and revived; but if the plays are printed in the order in which they were written, from the dates of fome, 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 necesfity, 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 possession 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 difapproved, that he was compelled to recall it, and change it from its imperfect state to the form in which it now appears, and which
is yet sufficiently 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 ; and indeed there is the less, as they do not appear in the collection to which this narration is annexed. It will be fit however to enumerate them, and to take especial notice of those that are distinguished 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.
In 1664 he published the Rival Ladies, which he dedicated to the Earl of Orrery, a man of high reputation both as a writer and a statesman. In this play he made his essay of dramatick rhyme, which he defends in his dedication, with fufficient certainty of a favourable hearing; for Orrery was himself a writer of rhyming tragedies.
He then joined with Sir Robert Howard in the Indian Queen, a tragedy in rhyme.
The parts which either of them wrote are not distinguished.
The Indian Emperor was published in 1667. It is a tragedy in rhyme, intended for a sequel to Howard's Indian Queen. Of this connection notice was given to the audience by printed bills, distributed at the door; an expedient supposed to be ridiculed in the Rebearsal, when Bayes tells how many reams he has printed, to instill into the audience some conception of his plot.
In this play is the description of Night, which Rymer has made famous by preferring it to those of all other poets,
The practice of making tragedies in rhyme was introduced soon after the Restoration, as it seems, by the earl of Orrery, in compliance with the opinion of Charles the Second, who had formed his taste by the French theatre; and Dryden, who wrote, and made no difficulty of declaring that he wrote, only to please, and who perhaps knew that by his dexterity of versification he was more likely to excel others in rhyme than without it, very readily adopted his master's prefer3
He therefore made rhyming tragedies, till, by the prevalence of manifest propriety, he seems to have of making them any longer.
To this play is prefixed a very vehement defence of dramatick rhyme, in confutation of the preface to the Duke of Lerma, in which Sir Robert Howard had censured it.
In 1667, he published Annus Mirabilis, the Year of Wonders, which seems to be one of his most elaborate works.
It is addressed to Sir Robert Howard by a letter, which is not properly a dedication; and, writing to a poet, he has interspersed many
critical observations, of which some are common, and some perhaps ventured without much consideration. He began, even now, to exercise the domination of conscious genius, by recommending his own performance : “ I am satisfied that as the * Prince and General (Rupert and Monk] " are incomparably the best subjects I ever « had, so what I have written on them is s much better than what I have performed