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distress in the acutest manner, and not be much the wiser for it.
The tragedies of Orway, Lee, and Southern, are irresistibly moving; but yet they convey not such grand sentiments, and their language is far from being so poetical, as Dryden's. Now, if one dramatic poet writes to move, and another to inchant and instruct, as instruction is of greater consequence than being agitated, it follows naturally, that the latter is the most excellent writer, and possesses the greatest genius.
But perhaps our poet would have wrote better in both kinds of the drama, had not the neceflity of his circumstances obliged him to comply with the popular tafte. He himself, in his dedication to the Spanish Fryar, infinuates as much.
“ I remember," says he, “ fome verses of my own Maximin and Almanzor, which cry vengeance upon me for their extravagance. All that I can say for those passages, which are, I hope, not many, is, that I knew they were bad when I wrote them. But I repent of them amongst my sins, and, if any of their fellows intrude by chance, into my present writings, I draw a veil over all these Dalilahs of the the. atre ; and am resolved, I will fettle myself no reputation upon the applause of fools. 'Tis not that I am mortified to all ambition, but I fcorn as much to take it from half-witted
judges, as I Mould to raise an estate by cheata ing of bubbles.
“ Neither do I discommend the lofty ftile in tragedy, which is naturally pompous and magnificent; but nothing is truly sublime that is not just and proper.
He says, in another place, That his Spanish Fryar was given to the people, and that he never wrote any thing in the dramatic way, to please himfelf, but his All for Love.
In 1671, Mr. Dryden was publicly ridi culed on the stage, in the duke of Buckingham's comedy, called the Rehearsal, under the character of Bays. This character, we are informed, in the Key to the Rehearsal, was originally intended for Sir Robort Howard, under the name of Bilboa; but the re. presentation being put a stop to, by the breaking out of the plague, in 1665, it was laid by for several years, and not exhibited on the ftage till 1671 ; in which interval, Mr. Dry. den being advanced to the laurel, the noble author changed the name of his poet from Bilboa to Bays; and made great alterations in his play, in order to ridicule several drama. tic performances, that appeared fince the first writing it.
Those of Mr. Dryden which fell under his grace's lah, were, the. Wild Gallant, Tyrannic Love, the Conquest of Granada, Marriage A-la-Made, and Lore in a Nunnery,
Whatever was extravagant, or too warmly expreffed, or any way unnatural, the author has ridiculed by parody.
Mr. Dryden affected to despise the satire levelled at him in the Rehearsal, as appears from bis dedication of the translation of Juvenal and Persius ; where, fpeaking of the many lampoons and libels that had been written against him, he says,
" I answered not to the Rehearsal, because I knew the author fat to himself when he drew the picture, and was the very Bays of his own farce ;
because I also knew my betters were more concerned than I was in that farire ; and, lastly, because Mr. Smith and Mr. Johnfon, the main pillars of it, were two such languishing gentlemen in their conversation, that I could liken them to nothing but their own relations, those noble characters of men of wit and pleasure about town,
In 1679, came out an Essay on Satire, faid: to be written jointly by Mr. Dryden and the earl of Mulgrave. This piece, which was handed about in manuscript, containing refections on the duchess of Portsmouth and the earl of Rochefer ; who fufpecting, as Wood fays, Mr. Dryden to be the author, hired three ruffians to cudgel him in Wills's coffee-house, at eight o'clock at night. This short anecdote, I think, cannot be told without indignation. It proved Rochester was a malicious
coward, and, like other cowards, cruel and insolent ; his soul was incapable of any thing that approached towards generosity; and, when his resentment was heated, he pursued revenge, and retained the most lafting hatred : he had always entertained a prejudice against Dryden from no other motive than envy; Dryden's plays met with success, and this was enough to fire the resentment of Rochester, who was naturally envious.
In order to hurt the character, and make the interest of this noble poet, he recommended Crown, an obscure man, to write a Masque for the court, which was Dryden's province, as poet-laureat, to perform. Crown in this fucceeded ; but, soon after, when his play, called the Conquest of Jerusalem, met with such extraordinary applause, Rochester, jealous of his new favourite, not only aban. doned him, but commenced, from that mor ment, his enemy.
The other person against whom this fatire was levelled, was not superior in virtue to the former; and, all the nation over, two better Subjects for satire could not have been found, than lord Rochester and the duchess of Portsmouth. As for Rochester, he had not genius enough to enter the lifts with Dryden, so he fell upon another method of revenge, and meanly hired bravoes to assault him.
In 1680, came out a translation of Ovid's Epiftles in English verse, by several hands; two of which were translated by Mr. Dryden,
who also wrote the preface. In the year following, our author published Abfalom and Achitophel. It was first printed without his name, and is a severe satire against the contrivers and abettors of the opposition against king Charles II.
In the same year that Abfalom and Achitophel was published, the Medal, a satire, was likewise given to the public. This piece is aimed against fedition, and was occafioned by the Ariking of a medal on account of the indiament against the earl of Shaftsbury for high-treason, being found ignoramus by the grand-jury, at the Old-Bailey: for which the whig party made great rejoicings by ringing of bells, bonfires, &c. in all parts of London, The poem is introduced in a very sati. sical epitle to the whigs, in which the author fays,
“ I have one favour to defire of you at parting, that, when you think of answering this poem, you would employ the same pens against it, who have combated with fo much success against Abfalom and Achitophel; for then you may assure yourselves of a clear victory without the least reply. Rail at me abundantly, and not break a custom to do it with wit. By this method you will gain a confiderable point; which is, wholly to wave the answer of my arguments. If God has not blessed you with the talent of rhiming, make use of my poor stock and welcome ; let your verses sun upon my feet; and, for the utmoft