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its first appearance; and was, I think, long considered as a very diverting entertainment.
"Cleomenes" (1692) is a tragedy, only remarkable as it occasioned an incident related in the "Guardian," and allusively mentioned by Dryden in his preface. As he came out from the representation, he was accosted thus by some airy stripling: "Had I been left alone with a young beauty, I would not have spent my time like your Spartan." "That, Sir," said Dry- | den, “perhaps is true; but give me leave to tell you that you are no hero."
"King Arthur" (1691) is another opera. was the last work that Dryden performed for King Charles, who did not live to see it exhibited, and it does not seem to have been ever brought upon the stage.' In the dedication to the Marquis of Halifax, there is a very elegant character of Charles, and a pleasing account of his latter life. When this was first brought upon the stage, news that the Duke of Monmouth had landed was told in the theatre; upon which the company departed, and “Arthur" was exhibited no more.
His last drama was "Love Triumphant," a tragi-comedy. In his dedication to the Earl of Salisbury, he mentions "the lowness of fortur.e to which he has voluntarily reduced himself, and of which he has no reason to be ashamed."
This play appeared in 1694. It is said to have been unsuccessful. The catastrophe, proceeding merely from a change of mind, is confessed by the Author to be defective. Thus he began and ended his dramatic labours with ill success.
From such a number of theatrical pieces, it will be supposed, by most readers, that he must have improved his fortune; at least that such diligence with such abilities must have set penury at defiance. But in Dryden's time the drama was very far from that universal approbation which it has now obtained. The playhouse was abhorred by the puritans, and avoided by those who desired the character of seriousness or decency. A grave lawyer would have debased his dignity, and a young trader would have impaired his credit, by appearing in those mansions of dissolute licentiousness.
fits of the theatre, when so many classes of the people were deducted from the audience, were not great: and the poet had, for a long time, but a single night. The first that had two nights was Southern: and the first that had three was Rowe. There were, however, in those days, arts of improving a poet's profit, which Dryden forbore to practise; and a play therefore seldom produced him more than a hundred pounds by the accumulated gain of the third night, the dedication, and the copy.
This is a mistake. It was set to music by Purcell, and well received, and is yet a favourite enter tainment.-H.
Almost every piece had a dedication, written with such elegance and luxuriance of praise, as neither haughtiness nor avarice could be imagined able to resist. But he seems to have made flattery too cheap. That praise is worth nothing of which the price is known.
To increase the value of his copies, he often accompanied his work with a preface of criticism; a kind of learning then almost new in English language, and which he, who had considered with great accuracy the principles of writing, was able to distribute copiously as occasions arose. By these dissertations the public judgment must have been much improved; and Swift, who conversed with Dryden, relates that he regretted the success of his own instructions, and found his readers made suddenly too skilful to be easily satisfied.
His prologues had such reputation, that for some time a play was considered as less likely to be well received, if some of his verses did not introduce it. The price of a prologue was two guineas, till, being asked to write one for Mr. Southern, he demanded three: "Not," said he, young man, out of disrespect to you: but the players have had my goods too cheap.' Though he declares that in his own opinion his genius was not dramatic, he had great confidence in his own fertility; for he is said to have engaged, by contract, to furnish four plays a year.
It is certain that in one year, 1678,† he published " All for Love," " Assignation," two parts of the Conquest of Granada,” “Sir Martin Mar-all," and the "State of Innocence;" six complete plays, with a celerity of performance, which, though all Langbaine's charges of plagiarism should be allowed, shows such facility of composition, such readiness of language, and such copiousness of sentiment, as, since the time of Lopez de Vega, perhaps no other author has ever possessed.
He did not enjoy his reputation, however great, nor his profits, however small, without molestation. He had critics to endure, and ri
vals to oppose. The two most distinguished wits of the nobility, the Duke of Buckingham and Earl of Rochester declared themselves his
* Johnson has here quoted from memory. War burton is the original relator of this anecdote, who says he had it from Southern himself. According to him, Dryden's usual price had been four guineas, and he made Southern pay six. In the edition of Southern's plays, 1764, we have a different deviation from the truth, five and ten guineas. MALONE. J. B.
+ Dr. Johnson in this assertion was misled by Langbaine. Only one of these plays appeared in 1678. Nor were there more than three in any one year. The dates are now added from the original editions.-R.
Buckingham characterised him, in 1671, by the name of Bayes in "The Rehearsal;" a farce which he is said to have written with the assistance of Butler, the author of "Hudibras;" Martin Clifford, of the Charter-house; and Dr. Sprat, the friend of Cowley, then his chaplain. Dryden and his friends laughed at the length of time, and the number of hands, employed upon this performance; in which, though by some artifice of action it yet keeps possession of the stage, it is not possible now to find any thing that might not have been written without so long delay, or a confederacy so
To adjust the minute events of literary history is tedious and troublesome; it requires indeed no great force of understanding, but often depends upon inquiries which there is no opportunity of making, or is to be fetched from books and pamphlets not always at hand.
"The Rehearsal" was played in 1671,* and yet is represented as ridiculing passages in "The Conquest of Granada" and " Assignation," which were not published till 1678; in "Marriage a-la-mode," published in 1673; and in "Tyrannic Love," in 1677. These contradictions show how rashly satire is applied.+
ridicule the reigning poet, whoever he might be.
Much of the personal satire, to which it might owe its first reception, is now lost or obscured. Bayes probably imitated the dress, and mimicked the manner of Dryden: the cant words which are so often in his mouth may be supposed to have been Dryden's habitual phrases, or customary exclamations. Bayes, when he is to write, is blooded and purged; this, as Lamotte relates himself to have heard, was the real practice of the poet.
There were other strokes in "The Rehearsal” by which malice was gratified; the debate between Love and Honour, which keeps Prince Volscius in a single boot, is said to have alluded to the misconduct of the Duke of Ormond, who lost Dublin to the rebels while he was toying with a mistress.
The Earl of Rochester, to suppress the reputation of Dryden, took Settle into his protection, and endeavoured to persuade the public that its approbation had been to that time misplaced. Settle was a while in high reputation ;
Empress of Morocco," having first delighted the town, was carried in triumph to Whitehall, and played by the ladies of the court. Now was the poetical meteor at the highest: the next moment began its fall. Rochester withdrew his patronage: seemingly resolved, says one of his
It is said that this farce was originally intended against Davenant, who, in the first draught, was characterised by the name of Bilboa. Davenant had been a soldier and an adven-biographers, "to have a judgment contrary to
There is one passage in "The Rehearsal" still remaining, which seems to have related originally to Davenant. Bayes hurts his nose, and comes in with brown paper applied to the bruise; how this affected Dryden does not appear. Davenant's nose had suffered such diminution by mishaps among the women, that a patch upon that part evidently denoted him.
It is said likewise that Sir Robert Howard was once meant. The design was probably to
It was published in 1672.-R.
+ There is no contradiction, according to Mr. Malone, but what arises from Dr. Johnson's having copied the erroneous dates assigned to these plays by Langbaine.-C.
This remark, as Mr. Malone observes, is founded upon the erroneous dates with which Johnson was supplied by Langbaine. "The Rehearsal" was played in 1671, but not published till the next year. The Wild Gallant" was printed in 1669; "The Maiden Queen" in 1668: "Tyrannic Love" in 1670; the two parts of "Granada" were performed in 1669 and 1670, though not printed till 1672. Additions were afterwards made to "The Rehearsal," and among these are the "Parodies on Assignation," which are not to be found in Buckingham's play, as it originally appeared. Mr. Malone denies that there is any allusion to " Marriage a-la-mode." See MALONE, p. 100.-J. B.
that of the town;" perhaps being unable to endure any reputation beyond a certain height, even when he had himself contributed to raise it.
Neither critics nor rivals did Dryden much
mischief, unless they gained from his own temper the power of vexing him, which his frequent bursts of resentment give reason to suspect. He is always angry at some past, or afraid of some future censure; but he lessens the smart of his wounds by the balm of his own approbation, and endeavours to repel the shafts of criticism by opposing a shield of adamantine confidence.
The perpetual accusation produced against him, was that of plagiarism, against which he never attempted any vigorous defence; for though he was perhaps sometimes injuriously censured, he would, by denying part of the charge, have confessed the rest; and, as his adversaries had the proof in their own hands, he, who knew that wit had little power against facts, wisely left, in that perplexity which it generally produces, a question which it was his interest to suppress, and which, unless provoked by vindication, few were likely to examine.
Though the life of a writer, from about thirtyfive to sixty-three, may be supposed to have been sufficiently busied by the composition of eightand-twenty pieces for the stage, Dryden found room in the same space for many other undertakings.
But, how much soever he wrote, he was at
written against the faction which, by Lord Shaftesbury's incitement, set the Duke of Monmouth at its head.
Of this poem, in which personal satire was applied to the support of public principles, and in which therefore every mind was interested, the reception was eager, and the sale so large, that my father, an old bookseller, told me he had not known it equalled but by Sacheverell's Trial.
The reason of this general perusal Addison has attempted to derive from the delight which the mind feels in the investigation of secrets: and thinks that curiosity to decipher the names procured readers to the poem. There is no need to inquire why those verses were read, which, to all the attractions of wit, elegance, and harmony, added the co-operation of all the factious passions, and filled every mind with triumph or
least once suspected of writing more: for, in 1679, a paper of verses, called "An Essay on Satire,' was shown about in manuscript; by which the Earl of Rochester, the Dutchess of Portsmouth, and others, were so much provoked that, as was supposed (for the actors were never discovered), they procured Dryden, whom they suspected as the author, to be waylaid and beaten. This incident is mentioned by the Duke of Buckinghamshire,* the true writer, in his "Art of Poetry;" where he says of Dryden, Though praised and beaten for another's rhymes, His own deserve as great applause sometimes. His reputation in time was such, that his name was thought necessary to the success of every poetical or literary performance, and therefore he was engaged to contribute something, whatever it might be, to many publications. He prefixed the Life of Polybius to the translation of Sir Henry Sheers: and those of Lucian and Plutarch, to versions of their works by different hands. Of the English Tacitus he translated the first book: and, if Gordon be credited, translated it from the French. Such a charge can hardly be mentioned without some degree of indignation; but it is not, I suppose, so much to be inferred, that Dryden wanted the literature necessary to the One of these poems is called "Dryden's Satire perusal of Tacitus, as that, considering himself on his Muse;" ascribed, though, as Pope says, as hidden in a crowd, he had no awe of the pub-falsely, to Somers, who was afterwards chancellic; and, writing merely for money, was contented to get it by the nearest way.
In 1680, the Epistles of Ovid being translated by the poets of the time, among which one was the work of Dryden,† and another of Dryden and Lord Mulgrave, it was necessary to introduce them by a preface; and Dryden, who on such occasions was regularly summoned, prefixed a discourse upon translation, which was then struggling for the liberty that it now enjoys. Why it should find any difficulty in breaking the shackles of verbal interpretation, which must for ever debar it from elegance, it would be difficult to conjecture, were not the power of prejudice every day observed. The authority of Jonson, Sandys, and Holiday, had fixed the judgment of the nation; and it was not easily believed that a better way could be found than they had taken, though Fanshaw, Denham, Waller, and Cowley, had tried to give examples of a different practice.
In 1681, Dryden became yet more conspicuous by uniting politics with poetry, in the memorable satire called "Absalom and Achitophel,"
It could not be supposed that all the provocation given by Dryden would be endured without resistance or reply. Both his person and his party were exposed in their turns to the shafts of satire, which, though neither so well pointed, nor perhaps so well aimed, undoubtedly drew blood.
lor. The poem, whosesoever it was, has much virulence, and some sprightliness. The writer tells all the ill that he can collect both of Dryden and his friends.
The poem of "Absalom and Achitophel" had two answers now both forgotten; one called "Azaria and Hushai ;"* the other, "Absalom Senior." Of these hostile compositions, Dryden apparently imputes "Absalom Senior" to Settle, by quoting in his verse against him the second line. "Azaria and Hushai" was, as Wood says, imputed to him, though it is somewhat unlikely that he should write twice on the same occasion. This is a difficulty which I cannot remove, for want of a minuter knowledge of poetical transactions.
The same year he published "The Medal," of which the subject is a medal struck on Lord Shaftesbury's escape from a prosecution, by the ignoramus of a grand jury of Londoners.
In both poems he maintains the same principles, and saw them both attacked by the same antagonist. Elkanah Settle, who had answered "Absalom," appeared with equal courage in opposition to "The Medal;" and published an answer called "The Medal reversed," with se
Mentioned by A. Wood, Athen. Oxon. vol. ii. much success in both encounters, that he left 804. 2d ed.-C.
+ Dryden translated two entire epistles, "Canace to Macareus," and "Dido to Æneas." "Helen to Paris" was translated by him and Lord Mulgrave. MALONE.-J. B.
"Azaria and Hushai" was written by Samuel Pordage, a dramatic writer of that time.-C.
the palm doubtful, and divided the suffrages of | the nation. Such are the revolutions of fame, or such is the prevalence of fashion, that the man, whose works have not yet been thought to deserve the care of collecting them, who died forgotten in an hospital, and whose latter years were spent in contriving shows for fairs, and carrying an elegy or epithalamium, of which the beginning and end were occasionally varied, but the intermediate parts were always the same, to every house where there was a funeral or a wedding, might with truth have had inscribed upon his stone,
Here lies the Rival and Antagonist of Dryden.
Settle was, for his rebellion, severely chastised by Dryden, under the name of "Doeg," in the second part of " Absalom and Achitophel ;" and was, perhaps, for his factious audacity made the city poet, whose annual office was to describe the glories of the Mayor's day. Of these bards he was the last, and seems not much to have deserved even this degree of regard, if it was paid to his political opinions: for he afterwards wrote a panegyric on the virtues of Judge Jefferies; and what more could have been done by the meanest zealot for prerogative?
Of translated fragments, or occasional poems, to enumerate the titles, or settle the dates, would be tedious, with little use. It may be observed that, as Dryden's genius was commonly excited by some personal regard, he rarely writes upon a general topic.
Soon after the accession of King James, when the design of reconciling the nation to the church of Rome became apparent, and the religion of the court gave the only efficacious title to its favours, Dryden declared himself a convert to popery. This at any other time might have passed with little censure. Sir Kenelm Digby embraced popery; the two Reynolds's reciprocally converted one another ;* and Chillingworth himself was awhile so entangled in the wilds of controversy, as to retire for quiet to an infallible church. men of argument and study can find such difficulties, or such motives as may either unite them to the church of Rome, or detain them in uncertainty, there can be no wonder that a man who perhaps never inquired why he was a protestant, should by an artful and experienced disputant be made a papist, overborne by the sudden violence of new and unexpected arguments, or deceived by a representation which shows only the doubts on one part, and only the evidence on the other.
* Dr. John Reynolds, who lived temp. Jac. I. was at first a zealous papist, and his brother William as earnest a protestant; but, by mutual disputation, each converted the other. See Fuller's Church History, p. 47, Book X.-H.
That conversion will always be suspected that apparently concurs with interest. He that never finds his error till it hinders his progress towards wealth or honour, will not be thought to love truth only for herself. Yet it may easily happen, that information may come at a commodious time; and as truth and interest are not by any fatal necessity at variance, that one may by accident introduce the other. When opinions are struggling into popularity, the arguments by which they are opposed or defended become more known; and he that changes his profession would perhaps have changed it before, with the like opportunities of instruction. This was the then state of popery; every artifice was used to show it in its fairest form; and it must be owned to be a religion of external appearance sufficiently attractive.
It is natural to hope that a comprehensive is likewise an elevated soul, and that whoever is wise is also honest. I am willing to believe that Dryden, having employed his mind, active as it was, upon different studies, and filled it, capacious as it was, with other materials, came unprovided to the controversy, and wanted rather skill to discover the right, than virtue to maintain it. But inquiries into the heart are not for man; we must now leave him to his Judge.
The priests, having strengthened their cause by so powerful an adherent, were not long before they brought him into action. They engaged him to defend the controversial papers found in the strong box of Charles II.; and, what yet was harder, to defend them against Stillingfleet.
With hopes of promoting popery, he was employed to translate Maimbourg's History of the League; which he published with a large introduction. His name is likewise prefixed to the English Life of Francis Xavier; but I know not that he ever owned himself the translator. Perhaps the use of his name was a pious fraud; which, however, seems not to have had much effect; for neither of the books, I believe, were ever popular.
The version of Xavier's Life is commended
by Brown, in a pamphlet not written to flatter;
and the occasion of it is said to have been, that the Queen, when she solicited a son, made vows to him as her tutelary saint.
He was supposed to have undertaken to translate Yarillas's "History of Heresies ;" and when Burnet published remarks upon it, to have written an Answer;* upon which Burnet makes the following observation :
"I have been informed from England, that a gentleman who is famous both for poetry and several other things, had spent three months in
* This is a mistake. See Malone, p. 194, &c.-C.
Brown, of which the two first were called "Reasons of Mr. Bayes's changing his Religion;" and the third, "The Reasons of Mr. Hains the Player's Conversion and Re-conversion." The first was printed in 1688, the second not till 1690, the third in 1691. The clamour seems to have been long continued, and the subject to have strongly fixed the public attention.
In the two first dialogues Bayes is brought into the company of Crites and Eugenius, with whom he had formerly debated on dramatic poetry. The two talkers in the third are Mr. Bayes and Mr. Hains.
translating M. Varillas's History; but that, as was not likely to pass uncensured. Three diasoon as my Reflections appeared, he discon-logues were published by the facetious Thomas tinued 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 as 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 somewhat to sink from in matter of wit; but, as for his morals, it is scarcely possible for him to grow a worse man than he was. He has lately wreaked his malice on me for spoiling his three months' Jabour; 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 extravagances; 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."
Brown was a man not deficient in literature nor destitute of fancy; but he seems to have thought it the pinnacle of excellence to be a merry fellow; and therefore laid out his powers upon small jests or gross buffoonery; so that his performances have little intrinsic value, and were read only while they were recommended by the novelty of the event that occasioned them.
These dialogues are like his other works: what sense or knowledge they contained is disgraced by the garb in which it is exhibited. One great source of pleasure is to call Dryden little Bayes. Ajax, who happens to be mentioned, is "he that wore as many cow-hides upon his shield as would have furnished half the King's army with shoe-leather."
Being asked whether he had seen the "Hind and Panther," Crites answers; "Seen it! Mr. Bayes, why I can stir no where but it pursues me; it haunts me worse than a pewter-buttoned sergeant does a decayed cit. Sometimes I meet it in a bandbox, when my laundress brings home my linen; sometimes, whether I will or no, it lights my pipe at a coffee-house; some
Having probably felt his own inferiority in theological controversy, he was desirous of try-times it surprises me in a trunk-maker's shop; ing whether, by bringing poetry to aid his arguments, he might become a more efficacious defender of his new profession. To reason in verse was, indeed, one of his powers; but subtilty and harmony, united, are still feeble, when opposed to truth.
Actuated therefore by zeal for Rome, or hope of fame, he published "The Hind and Panther," a poem in which the church of Rome, figured by the "milk-white Hind," defends her tenets against the church of England, represented by the Panther, a beast beautiful, but spotted.
and sometimes it refreshes my memory for me on the back side of a Chancery-lane parcel.. For your comfort too, Mr. Bayes, I have not only seen it, as you may perceive, but have read it too, and can quote it as freely upon occasion as a frugal tradesman can quote that noble treatise, The Worth of a Penny,' to his extravagant 'prentice, that revels in stewed apples and penny custards."
The whole animation of these compositions arises from a profusion of ludicrous and affected comparisons. "To secure one's chastity," says Bayes, "little more is necessary than to leave off a correspondence with the other sex, which, to a wise man, is no greater a punishment than it would be to a fanatic person to forbid seeing The Cheats and The Committee; or for my Lord Mayor and Aldermen to be interdicted the sight of The London Cuckolds." This is the general strain, and therefore I shall be easily excused The conversion of such a man, at such a time, the labour of more transcription.
A fable, which exhibits two beasts talking theology, appears at once full of absurdity; and it was accordingly ridiculed in the "City Mouse and Country Mouse," a parody, written by Montague, afterwards Earl of Halifax, and Prior, who then gave the first specimen of his abilities.