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have borne much who could vent the story of his wants as bitterly as Dryden was used to do, in his prefaces and dedications; and he must have been acutely pinched in the economy of his table, of whose hospitality no contemporary has spoken a word. For the causes of this distress it were now equally vain and difficult to account : he is not described even by his enemies as one vain or extravagant, and therefore could never have been so much straightened if he had been at all moderately remunerated for the prolific testimonials he has left us of his genius. Some authors have been complacent enough to thank his poverty for the quantity he wrote; but would it not have been juster to have wished that his circumstances had permitted him to have written less, and made that more perfect? No one can doubt but that what Dryden tells of himself is true, namely, that he wrote upon the spur of necessity, not what his own judgment preferred, but what his fancy led him to hope would please the people.
One of his enemies makes him confess
Nor wine nor love could ever see me gay,
But this censure, if admitted at all, must be admitted with much reservation; for Congreve represents him as one pleased to advise and instruct by his conversation : the probability is, that habits of thought and study, by giving him fewer opportu. nities to cultivate conversational powers, left him less happy in the exercise of their splendour. Of his temper and amiability as a man and a father, we have the kindest assurances ; of his mind the character he has himself drawn of Charles the IId. has been held by Dr. Johnson to be as good a description as we can possess ; -- it therefore follows here:
- His conversation, wit and parts,
His knowledge in the noblest useful arts,
His knowledge more, his reading only less.
To review the works of Dryden with that fidelity and attention which their importance and variety demand, would require a space at least equal to that which has already been devoted to his life. So great an extension of any one subject cannot be expected in a series of mere sketches : it must therefore suffice to state generally that he was the first Englishman who laid down the rules of poetical criticismi with justice and elegance; who wrote satire with severity and taste combined; who launched into every description of style and every flow of numbers, and snatched success from each; and that he was the only Englishman who found the versification of our poetry immature, and had the genius to raise it to all the effect of which the language is susceptible. Nor was he less commendable in prose : his numerous prefaces abound with merits both of style and doctrine. Honours so complex no second author has to this day acquired amongst us : Shakspeare alone exhausted tragedy, but Dryden perfected satire, essay, ode, and fable. The best editions of his works are those in prose edited by Malone, in 4 vols. 8vo. 1800; those in verse, edited by Todd, with notes by Warton, in 4 vols. 8vo. 1812; and those both in prose and verse, edited together by Sir. Walter Scott, in 18 vols. 8vo. 1818.
Asa pablic man Dryden has been severely censured for servilityiwan invidious reproach, which is rather inconsistently thrown upor most authors who happen to be government supporters. But the rule, however cynical, by which one author criticises the character of another is precisely that rule by which his own conduct should be scrutinised; and perhaps, if brought to such a recrimination-test, it will be found that mentál prostitution is the viće of every party writer. For are not all such advocates, to a man, partial in their feelings and interested in their views ? the one labours to usurp the place and emolument which the other enjoys: truth therefore must suffer equally from both. It must then be certainly more charitable, and probably fairer, to give every author credit for his professions until he contradicts them himself, or betrays their insincerity by actions irreconcilable with his creed. Now, what is there in the writings of Dryden, which, if canvassed upon this principle, can subject him to the ignominious charge of unconscientious subserviency ? Except his sudden transition from the panegyrist of Cromwell to the panegyrist of Charles, absolutely nothing. His political satires are unquestionably rancorous, but who has justified the intrigues that embittered them ? Arbitrary as the policy of those reigns was, it had, nevertheless, honest supporters, who died in numbers for the cause. Why then may not he also have been sincere in his politics? Had he really been the sycophant that some would imply, he would have seized one of the various opportunities which so many noble men availed themselves of, and have trimmed to the revolution. The excessive flattery of Dryden's dedications, however, is not so easily excused: in those performances he displays an art in adulatory fictions which cannot easily be equalled.
Dryden's widow and three sons survived him : of the latter, Charles was the eldest, who after publishing some Latin poems and translations, went to Italy in 1692, became Chamberlain to Pope Innocent the XII. and wrote a poem at Rome, entitled, •On the Happiness of a retired Life.' Returning afterwards to England, he was drowned in an attempt to swim across the Thames at Datchet, in 1704. John, the second son, was educated at Westminster, whence he was elected to Oxford. Imitating his father's conversion, he went to Rome, and obtained a place under his brother in the Pope's household. There he wrote a comedy, entitled, the Husband his own Cuckold,' which was subsequently acted at London. He was also the author of a Tour in. Malta and Sicily,' printed in 8vo. seventy-five years after his death, which was occasioned by a fever in 1701. Erasmus Henry Dryden was educated in the Charter House, and followed his brothers to Rome, where he obtained a captaincy in the Pope's guards. Upon the death of his kinsman, Sir John Dryden, he came back to England, inherited the baronetcy of the family, and died in 1710.