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We'll blot out all those hideous draughts, and write
Whom living we made foes, dead we'll make friends. "If this be not a very liberal mess, I will refer myself to the stomach of any moderate guest. And a rare mess it is, far excelling any Westminster white-broth. It is a kind of giblet porridge, made of the giblets of a couple of young geese, stodged full of meteors, orbs, spheres, track, hideous draughts, dark characters, white forms, and radiant lights, designed not only to please appetite, and indulge luxury; but it is also physical, being an approved medicine to purge choler; for it is propounded, by Morena, as a recipe to cure their fathers of their choleric humours; and, were it written in characters as barbarous as the words, might very well pass for a doctor's bill. To conclude; it is porridge, 'tis a recipe, 'tis a pig with a pudding in the belly, 'tis I know not what: for, certainly, never any one that pretended to write sense had the impudence before to put such stuff as this into the mouths of those that were to speak it before an audience, whom he did not take to be all fools; and after that to print it too, and expose it to the examination of the world. But let us see what we can make of this stuff:
For when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarg'd “Here he tells us wbat it is to be dead; it is to have our freed souls set free. Now, if to have a soul set free, is to be dead; then to have a freed soul set free, is to have a dead man die.
Then, gentle as a happy lover's sigh “They two like one sigh, and that one sigh like two wandering
Shall fly through the air "That is, they shall mount above like falling stars, or else they shall skip like two Jacks with lanthorns, or Will with a whisp, and Madge with a candle."
"And in the airy walk steal into their cruel fathers' breasts, like subtle guests. So, that their fathers' breasts must be in an airy walk, an airy walk of a flier. 'And there they will read their
souls, and track the spheres of their passions. That is, these walking fliers, Jack with a lanthorn, &c. will put on his spectacles, and fall a reading souls; and put on his pumps, and fall a tracking of spheres: so that he will read and run, walk and fly, at the same time! Oh! nimble Jack! Then he will see, how revenge here, how ambition there The birds will hop about. And then view the dark characters of sieges, ruins, murders, blood, and wars, in their orbs: track the characters to their forms! Oh! rare sport for Jack! Never was place so full of game as these breasts! You cannot stir, but flush a sphere, start a character, or unkennel an orb!”
Settle's is said to have been the first play embellished with sculptures; those ornaments seem to have given poor Dryden great disturbance. He tries however to ease his pain by venting his malice in a parody.
“The poet has not only been so imprudent to expose all this stuff, but so arrogant to defend it with an epistle; like a saucy booth-keeper, that, when he had put a cheat upon the people, would wrangle and fight with any that would not like it, or would offer to discover it; for which arrogance our poet receives this correction; and, to jerk him a little the sharper, I will not transpose his verse, but by the help of his own words transnonsense sense, that, by my stuff, people may judge the better what his is:
Great Boy, thy tragedy and sculptures done,
From breaths of fools thy commendation spreads,
"Thus I have daubed him with his own puddle: and now we are come from abroad his dancing, masking, rebounding, breathing fleet: and, as if we had landed at Gotham, we meet nothing but fools and nonsense."
Such was the criticism to which the genius of Dryden could be reduced, between rage and terror; rage with little provocation, and terror with little danger. To see the highest mind thus levelled with the meanest, may produce some solace to the consciousness of weakness, and some mortification to the pride of wisdom. But let it be remembered that minds are not levelled in their powers but when they are first levelled in their desires. Dryden and Settle had both placed their happiness in the claps of multitudes.
*An Evening's Love, or the Mock Astrologer,” a comedy (1671,) is dedicated to the illustrious Duke of Newcastle, whom he courts by adding to his praises those of his lady, not only as a lover but a partner of his studies. It is unpleasing to think how many names, once celebrated, are since forgotten. Of Newcastle's works nothing is now known but his Treatise on Horsemanship.
The preface seems very elaborately written, and contains many just remarks on the fathers of the English drama. Shakspeare's plots, he says, are in the hundred novels of Cinthio; those of Beaumont and Fletcher in Spanish stories; Jonson only made thein for himself. His criticisms upon tragedy, comedy, and farce, are judicious and profound. He endeavours to defend the immorality of some of his comedies by the example of former writers; which is only to say that he was not the first, nor perhaps the greatest offender. Against those that accused him of plagiarism he alleges a favourable expression of the King: "He only desired that they, who accuse me of thefts, would steal him plays like, mine;" and then relates how much labour he spends in fitting for the English stage what he borrows from others.
“Tyrannic Love, or the Virgin Martyr" (1672) was another tragedy in rhyme, conspicuous for many passages of strength
and elegance, and many of empty noise and ridiculous turbulence. The rants of Maximin have been always the sport of criticism; and were at length, if his own confession may be trusted, the shame of the writer.
Of this play he has taken care to let the reader know, that it was contrived and written in seven weeks. Want of time was often his excuse, or perhaps shortness of time was his private boast in the form of an apology.
It was written before “The Conquest of Granada," but published after it. The design is to recommend piety. 76 I considered that pleasure was not the only end of poesy; and that even the instructions of morality were not so wholly the business of a poet, as that the precepts and examples of piety were to be omitted; for to leave that employment altogether to the clergy, were to forget that religion was first taught in verse, which the laziness or dulness of succeeding priesthood turned afterwards into prose." Thus foolishly could Dryden write, rather than not shew his malice to the parsons.
The two parts of “The Conquest of Granada" (1672) are written with a seeming determination to glut the public with dramatic wonders, to exhibit in its highest elevation a theatrical meteor of incredible love and impossible valour, and to leave no room for a wilder flight to the extravagance of posterity. All the rays of romantic heat, whether amorous or warlike, glow in Almanzor by a kind of concentration. He is above all laws; he is exempt from all restraints; he ranges the world at will, and governs wherever he appears. He fights without inquiring the cause, and loves in spite of the obligations of justice, of rejection by his mistress, and of prohibition from the dead. Yet the scenes are, for the most part, delightful; they exhibit a kind of illustrious depravity, and majestic madness, such as, if it is sometimes despised, is often reverenced, and in which the ridiculous is mingled with the astonishing.
In the epilogue to the second part of “The Conquest of Granada," Dryden indulges his favourite pleasure of discrediting his predecessors; and this epilogue he has defended by a long postscript. He had promised a second dialogue, in which he should more fully treat of the virtues and faults of the English poets, who have written in the dramatic, epic, or lyric way. This promise was never formally performed;
but, with respect to the dramatic writers, he has given us in his prefaces, and in this postscript, something equivalent; but his purpose being to exalt himself by the comparison, he shews faults distinctly, and only praises excellence in general terms.
A play thus written, in professed defiance of probability, naturally drew upon itself the vultures of the theatre. One of the critics that attacked it was Martin Clifford, to whom Sprat addressed the Life of Cowley, with such veneration of his critical powers as might naturally excite great expec. tations of instruction from his remarks. But let honest credulity beware of receiving characters from contemporary writers. Clifford's remarks, by the favour of Dr. Percy, were at last obtained; and, that no man may ever want them more, I will extract enough to satisfy all reasonable desire.
In the first letter his observation is only general: “You do live," says he, “in as much ignorance and darkness as you did in the womb; your writings are like a Jack-of-all-trades' shop; they have a variety, but nothing of value; and if thou art not the dullest plant-animal that ever the earth produced, all that I have conversed with are strangely mistaken in
In the second he tells him that Almanzor is not more copied from Achilles than from ancient Pistol. “But I am,' says he, “strangely mistaken if I have not seen this very Almanzor of yours in some disguise about this town, and passing under another name. _Prythee tell me true, was not this huffcap once the Indian Emperor? and at another time did he not call himself Maximin? Was not Lyndaraxa once called Almeria ? I mean, under Montezuma, the Indian Emperor. I protest and vow they are either the same, or so alike, that I cannot, for my heart, distinguish one from the other. You are therefore a strange unconscionable thief; thou art not content to steal from others, but dost rob thy poor wretched self too."
Now was Settle's time to take his revenge. He wrote a vindication of his own lines; and, if he is forced to yield any thing, makes his reprisals upon his enemy. To say that his answer is equal to the censure, is no high commendation. To expose Dryden's method of analyzing his expressions, he tries the same experiment upon the same description of the ships in "The Indian Emperor," of which however he does not deny