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was then opposed. A parallel is intended between the leaguers of France and the covenanters of England and this intention produced the controversy.
"Albion and Albanius" (1685) is a musical drama or opera, written, like "The Duke of Guise," against the republicans. With what success it was performed, I have not found.* "The state of Innocence and Fall of Man" (1675) is termed by him an opera: it is rather a tragedy in heroic rhyme, but of which the personages are such as cannot decently be exhibited on the stage. Some such production was foreseen by Marvel, who writes thus to Milton:
"Or if a work so infinite be spann'd, Jealous I was lest some less skilful hand, (Such as disquiet always what is well, And by ill-imitating would excel,)
tible of sentiments accommodated to familiar incidents. The complaint of life is celebrated; and there are many other passages that may be read with pleasure.
This play is addressed to the Earl of Mulgrave, afterwards Duke of Buckingham, himself, if not a poet, yet a writer of verses, and a critic. In this address Dryden gave the first hints of his intention to write an epic poem. He mentions his design in terms so obscure, that he seems afraid lest his plan should be purloined, as, he says, happened to him when he told it more plainly in his preface to "Juvenal." "The design," says he, "you know is great, the story English, and neither too near the present times, nor too distant from them."
"All for Love, or the World well Lost," (1678,) a tragedy founded upon the story of Antony and Cleopatra, he tells us, "is the only play which he wrote for himself;" the rest consent accounted the work in which he has adwere given to the people. It is by universal
Might hence presume the whole creation's day To change in scenes, and show it in a play."" It is another of his hasty productions: for the heat of his imagination raised it in a month.mitted the fewest improprieties of style or chaThis composition is addressed to the Princess of Modena, then Dutchess of York, in a strain of flattery which disgraces genius, and which it was wonderful that any man that knew the meaning of his own words could use without self-detestation. It is an attempt to mingle earth and heaven, by praising human excellence in the language of religion.
The preface contains an apology for heroic verse and poetic license; by which is meant not any liberty taken in contracting or extending words, but the use of bold fictions and ambitious figures.
The reason which he gives for printing what was never acted cannot be overpassed: "I was induced to it in my own defence, many hundred copies of it being dispersed abroad without my knowledge or consent; and every one gathering new faults, it became at length a libel against me." These copies, as they gathered faults, were apparently manuscript, and he lived in an age very unlike ours, if many hundred copies of fourteen hundred lines were likely to be transcribed. An author has a right to print his own works, and need not seek an apology in falsehood; but he that could bear to write the dedication felt no pain in writing the pre
"Aureng Zebe" (1676) is a tragedy founded on the actions of a great prince then reigning, but over nations not likely to employ their crities upon the transactions of the English stage. If he had known and disliked his own character, our trade was not in those times secure from his resentment. His country is at such a distance, that the manners might be safely falsified, and the incidents feigned: for the remoteness of place is remarked, by Racine, to afford the same conveniences to a poet as length of time.
This play is written in rhyme, and has the appearance of being the most elaborate of all the dramas. The personages are imperial; but the dialogue is often domestic, and therefore suscep
Downes says, it was performed on a very unlucky day, viz. that on which the Duke of Monmouth landed in the west and he intimates, that the consternation into which the kingdom was thrown by this event was a reason why it was performed but six times and was in general ill received.-H.
racter; but it has one fault equal to many, though rather moral than critical, that, by admitting the romantic omnipotence of Love, he has recommended, as laudable and worthy of imitation, that conduct which, through all ages, the good have censured as vicious, and the bad despised as foolish.
though written upon the common topics of maOf this play, the prologue and the epilogue, licious and ignorant criticisms, and without any particular relation to the characters or incidents of the drama, are deservedly celebrated for their elegance and sprightliness.
"Limberham, or the Kind Keeper,” (1680) is hibited as too indecent for the stage. What a comedy, which, after the third night, was progave offence was in the printing, as the Author says, altered or omitted. Dryden confesses that its indecency was objected to; but Langbaine, who yet seldom favours him, imputes its expul sion to resentment, because it "so much exposed the keeping part of the town."
Dryden and Lee, in conjunction, from the works Oedipus" (1679) is a tragedy formed by of Sophocles, Seneca, and Corneille. Dryden planned the scenes, and composed the first and third acts.
"Don Sebastian" (1690) is commonly esteemed either the first or second of his dramatic performances. It is too long to be all acted, and has many characters and many incidents and though it is not without sallies of frantic dignity, and more noise than meaning, yet, as it makes approaches to the possibilities of real life, and has some sentiments which leave a strong impression, it continued long to attract attention. Amidst the distresses of princes, and the vicissitudes of empire, are inserted several scenes which the writer intended for comic; but which, I
suppose, that age did not much commend, and this would not endure. There are, however, passages of excellence universally acknowledg ed; the dispute and the reconciliation of Dorax and Sebastian has always been admired.
This play was first acted in 1690, after Dryden had for some years discontinued dramatic poetry.
Amphytrion" is a comedy derived from Plautus and Moliere. The dedication is dated
Oct. 1690. This play seems to have succeeded | English language, and which he, who had con
sidered 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.
at 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-some time a play was considered as less likely den, perhaps is true; but give me leave to tell you that you are no hero."
His prologues had such reputation, that for
to be well received, if some of his verses did not introduce it. The price of a prologue was two King Arthur" (1691) is another opera. It guineas, till, being asked to write one for Mr. was the last work that Dryden performed for Southern, he demanded three: "Not," said he, King Charles, who did not live to see it exhi-"young man, out of disrespect to you: but the bited, and it does not seem to have been ever players have had my goods too cheap." 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.
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 rivals to oppose. The two most distinguished wits of the nobility, the Duke of Buckingham and Earl of Rochester declared themselves his enemies.
His last drama was "Love Triumphant," a tragi-comedy. In his dedication to the Earl of Salisbury, he mentions "the lowness of fortune 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 appro- Buckingham characterised him, in 1671, by bation which it has now obtained. The play-the name of Bayes in "The Rehearsal ;" a farce house was abhorred by the puritans, and avoid- which he is said to have written with the assist ed by those who desired the character of serious-ance of Butler, the author of "Hudibras :" Mar ness 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. The profits 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, To adjust the minute events of literary history arts of improving a poet's profit, which Dryden is tedious and troublesome; it requires indeed forbore to practise; and a play therefore seldom no great force of understanding, but often deproduced him more than a hundred pounds by pends upon inquiries which there is no opporthe accumulated gain of the third night, the de-tunity of making, or is to be fetched from books dication, and the copy.
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 the
This is a mistake. It was set to music by Purcell, and well received, and is yet a favourite entertainment.-H.
tin 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 numerous.
and pamphlets not always at hand.
"The Rehearsal" was played in 1671,§ and yet is represented as ridiculing passages in
† Johnson has here quoted from memory. Warbur ton is the original relater of this anecdote, who says he had it from Southern himself. According to him, Dry. den's usual price had been four guineas, and he made Southern pay sir. In the edition of Southern's plays, 1764, we have a different deviation from the truth, fre
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.
It was published in 1672.-R.
"The Conquest of Granada" and "Assigna-
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 dininution by mishaps among the women, that a patch upon that part evidently denoted him.
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.
It is said likewise that Sir Robert Howard was once meant. The design was probably to 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 But, how much soever he wrote, he was at are so often in his mouth may be supposed to least once suspected of writing more for, in have been Dryden's habitual phrases, or cus-1679, a paper of verses, called "An Essay on tomary exclamations. Bayes, when he is to Satire," was shown about in manuscript; by write, is blooded and purged; this, as Lamotte which the Earl of Rochester, the Dutchess of relates himself to have heard, was the real prac- Portsmouth, and others, were so much provoked, tice of the poet. 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,
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.
Though prais'd and beaten for another's rhymes, His own deserve as great applause sometimes. The Earl of Rochester, to suppress the tation of Dryden, took Settle into his protec- name was thought necessary to the success of His reputation in time was such, that his tion, and endeavoured to persuade the public every poetical or literary performance, and therethat its approbation had been to that time mis-fore he was engaged to contribute something, placed. Settle was a while in high reputation; whatever it might be, to many publications. his "Empress of Morocco," having first delight-He prefixed the Life of Polybius to the transla ed the town, was carried in triumph to White-tion of Sir Henry Sheers; and those of Lucian hall, and played by the ladies of the court. and Plutarch, to versions of their works by difNow was the poetical meteor at the highest:ferent hands. Of the English Tacitus he transthe next moment began its fall. Rochester lated the first book: and, if Gordon be credited, withdrew his patronage: seemingly resolved, says one of his biographers, "to have a judgment contrary to that of the town;" perhaps being unable to endure any reputation beyond a certain height, even when he had himself con
tributed 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
translated it from the French. Such a charge
by the poets of the time, among which one was In 1680, the Epistles of Ovid being translated There is no contra liction, according to Mr. Malone, the work of Dryden, and another of Dryden but what arises from Dr. Johnson's having copied the and Lord Mulgrave, it was necessary to introerroneous dates assigned to these plays by Lang-duce them by a preface; and Dryden, who on such occasions was regularly summoned, pre
This remark, as Mr. Malone observes, is founded upon the erroneous dates with which Johnson was supplied fixed a discourse upon translation, which was by Langbaine. "The Rehearsal" was played in 1671, then struggling for the liberty that it now enbut not published till the next year. "The Wild Gal-joys. Why it should find any difficulty in breaking the shackles of verbal interpretation,
lant" was printed in 1669; "The Maiden Queen" in 1663; "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-lamode." See Malone, p. 100.-J. B.
which must for ever debar it from elegance, it | the palm doubtful, and divided the suffrages of would be difficult to conjecture, were not the the nation. Such are the revolutions of fame, power of prejudice every day observed. The or such is the prevalence of fashion, that 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," 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 resentment.
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.
One of these poems is called "Dryden's Satire on his Muse;" ascribed, though, as Pope says, falsely, to Somers, who was afterwards chancellor. 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.
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 in scribed 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. If men of argument and study can find such difficulties, or such motives The poem of "Absalom and Achitophel" had as may either unite them to the church of Rome, two answers, now both forgotten; one called or detain them in uncertainty, there can be no "Azaria and Hushai ;"* the other, "Absalom wonder that a man who perhaps never inquired Senior." Of these hostile compositions, Dry- why he was a protestant, should by an artful den apparently imputes "Absalom Senior" to and experienced disputant be made a papist, Settle, by quoting in his verse against him the overborne by the sudden violence of new and second line. "Azaria and Hushai" was, as unexpected arguments, or deceived by a repreWood says, imputed to him, though it is some-sentation which shows only the doubts on one what unlikely that he should write twice on the part, and only the evidence on the other. 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 so much success in both encounters, that he left
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 argumen. by which they are opposed or defended become more known; and he that changes his profession
Dr. John Reynolds, who lived temp. Jac. I. was a first a zealous papist, and his brother William as earnes a protestant; but, by mutual disputation, each converte"Azaria and Hushai" was written by Samuel Por- the other. See Fuller's Church History, p. 47, Boc. dage, a dramatic writer of that time.-C.
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.
malice on me for spoiling his three months' labour; 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."
Having probably felt his own inferiority in The priests, having strengthened their cause theological controversy, he was desirous of tryby so powerful an adherent, were not long being whether, by bringing poetry to aid his argu fore they brought him into action. They en- ments, he might become a more efficacious degaged him to defend the controversial papers fender of his new profession. To reason in verse found in the strong box of Charles II.; and, was, indeed, one of his powers; but subtlety what yet was harder, to defend them against and harmony united, are still feeble, when opStillingfleet. posed to truth.
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 Varillas'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 translating M. Varillas's History; but that, as soon as my Reflections appeared, he discontinued 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
• This is & mistake. See Malone, p. 194, &c.-C.
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.
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.
The conversion of such a man, at such a time, was not likely to pass uncensured. Three dialogues were published by the facetious Thomas 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.
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