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The Dramatic Works of John Dryden Vol. I. by Sir Walter Scott

Part 6 out of 7

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which the relations had lived, since the opposition of the Whigs to King
William's government in some degree united that party in conduct, though
not in motive, with the favourers of King James. Yet our author's strain
of politics, as at first expressed in the epistle, was too severe for
his cousin's digestion. Some reflections upon the Dutch allies, and
their behaviour in the war, were omitted, as tending to reflect upon
King William; and the whole piece, to avoid the least chance of giving
offence, was subjected to the revision of Montague, with a deprecation
of his displeasure, an entreaty of his patronage, and the humiliating
offer, that, although repeated correction had already purged the spirit
out of the poem, nothing should stand in it relating to public affairs.
without Mr. Montague's permission. What answer "full-blown Bufo"
returned to Dryden's petition, does not appear; but the author's
opposition principles were so deeply woven in with the piece, that they
could not be obliterated without tearing it to pieces. His model of an
English member of parliament votes in opposition, as his Good Parson is
a nonjuror, and the Fox in the fable of Old Chaucer is translated into a
puritan.[41] The epistle was highly acceptable to Mr. Driden of
Chesterton, who acknowledged the immortality conferred on him, by "a
noble present," which family tradition states to have amounted to
L500.[42] Neither did Dryden neglect so fair an opportunity to avenge
himself on his personal, as well as his political adversaries. Milbourne
and Blackmore receive in the epistle severe chastisement for their
assaults upon his poetry and private character:

"What help from art's endeavours can we have?
Guibbons but guesses, nor is sure to save;
But Maurus sweeps whole parishes, and peoples every grave,
And no more mercy to mankind will use
Than when he robbed and murdered Maro's muse.
Wouldst thou be soon despatched, and perish whole,
Trust Maurus with thy life, and Milbourne with thy soul"

Referring to another place, what occurs upon the style and execution of
the Fables, I have only to add, that they were published early in spring
1700, in a large folio, and with the "Ode to Saint Cecilia." The epistle
to Driden of Chesterton, and a translation of the first Iliad, must have
move than satisfied the mercantile calculations of Tonson, since they
contained seventeen hundred verses above the quantity which Dryden had
contracted to deliver. In the preface, the author vindicates himself
with great spirit against his literary adversaries; makes his usual
strong and forcible remarks on the genius of the authors whom he had
imitated; and, in this his last critical work, shows all the acumen
which had so long distinguished his powers. The Fables were dedicated to
the last Duke of Ormond, the grandson of the Barzillai of "Absalom and
Achitophel," and the son of the heroic Earl of Ossory; friends both, and
patrons of Dryden's earlier essays. There is something affecting in a
connection so honourably maintained; and the sentiment, as touched by
Dryden, is simply pathetic. "I am not vain enough to boast, that I have
deserved the value of so illustrious a line; but my fortune is the
greater, that for three descents they have been pleased to distinguish
my poems from those of other men; and have accordingly made me their
peculiar care. May it be permitted me to say, that as your grandfather
and father were cherished monarchs, so I have been esteemed and
patronised by the grandfather, the father, and the son, descended from
one of the most ancient, most conspicuous, and most deserving families
in Europe."

There were also prefixed to the "Fables," those introductory verses
addressed to the beautiful Duchess of Ormond,[43] which have all the
easy, felicitous, and sprightly gallantry, demanded on such occasions.
The incense, it is said, was acknowledged by a present of L500; a
donation worthy of the splendid house of Ormond. The sale of the
"Fables" was surprisingly slow: even the death of the author, which has
often sped away a lingering impression, does not seem to have increased
the demand; and the second edition was not printed till 1713, when,
Dryden and all his immediate descendants being no more, the sum
stipulated upon that event was paid by Tonson to Lady Sylvius, daughter
of one of Lady Elizabeth Dryden's brothers, for the benefit of his
widow, then in a state of lunacy.--See Appendix, vol. xviii.

The end of Dryden's labours was now fast approaching; and, as his career
began upon the stage, it was in some degree doomed to terminate there.
It is true, he never recalled his resolution to write no more plays; but
Vanbrugh having about this time revised and altered for the Drury-lane
theatre, Fletcher's lively comedy of "The Pilgrim," it was agreed that
Dryden, or, as one account says, his son Charles,[44] should have the
profits of a third night on condition of adding to the piece a Secular
Masque, adapted to the supposed termination of the seventeenth
century;[45] a Dialogue in the Madhouse between two Distracted Lovers;
and a Prologue and Epilogue. The Secular Masque contains a beautiful and
spirited delineation of the reigns of James I., Charles I., and Charles
II., in which the influence of Diana, Mars, and Venus, are supposed to
have respectively predominated. Our author did not venture to assign a
patron to the last years of the century, though the expulsion of Saturn
might have given a hint for it. The music of the Masque is said to have
been good; at least it is admired by the eccentric author of John
Buncle.[46] The Prologue and Epilogue to "The Pilgrim," were written
within twenty days of Dryden's death; [47] and their spirit equals that
of any of his satirical compositions. They afford us the less pleasing
conviction, that even the last fortnight of Dryden's life was occupied
in repelling or retorting the venomed attacks of his literary foes. In
the Prologue, he gives Blackmore a drubbing which would have annihilated
any author of ordinary modesty; but the knight[48] was as remarkable for
his powers of endurance, as some modern pugilists are said to be, for
the quality technically called _bottom_. After having been "brayed in a
mortar," as Solomon expresses it, by every wit of his time, Sir Richard
not only survived to commit new offences against ink and paper, but had
his faction, his admirers, and his panegyrists, among that numerous and
sober class of readers, who think that genius consists in good
intention.[49] In the Epilogue, Dryden attacks Collier, but with more
courteous weapons: it is rather a palliation than a defence of dramatic
immorality, and contains nothing personally offensive to Collier. Thus
so dearly was Dryden's preeminent reputation purchased, that even his
last hours were embittered with controversy; and nature, over-watched
and worn out, was, like a besieged garrison, forced to obey the call to
arms, and defend reputation even with the very last exertion of the
vital spirit.

The approach of death was not, however, so gradual as might have been
expected from the poet's chronic diseases. He had long suffered both by
the gout and gravel, and more lately the erysipelas seized one of his
legs. To a shattered frame and a corpulent habit, the most trifling
accident is often fatal. A slight inflammation in one of his toes,
became, from neglect, a gangrene. Mr. Hobbes, an eminent surgeon, to
prevent mortification, proposed to amputate the limb; but Dryden, who
had no reason to be in love with life, refused the chance of prolonging
it by a doubtful and painful operation.[50] After a short interval, the
catastrophe expected by Mr. Hobbes took place, and, Dryden not long
surviving the consequences, left life on Wednesday morning, 1st May
1700, at three o'clock. He seems to have been sensible till nearly his
last moments, and died in the Roman Catholic faith, with submission and
entire resignation to the divine will; "taking of his friends," says
Mrs. Creed, one of the sorrowful number, "so tender and obliging a
farewell, as none but he himself could have expressed."

The death of a man like Dryden, especially in narrow and neglected
circumstances, is usually an alarum-bell to the public. Unavailing and
mutual reproaches, for unthankful and pitiless negligence, waste
themselves in newspaper paragraphs, elegies, and funeral processions;
the debt to genius is then deemed discharged, and a new account of
neglect and commemoration is opened between the public and the next who
rises to supply his room. It was thus with Dryden: His family were
preparing to bury him with the decency becoming their limited
circumstances, when Charles Montague, Lord Jefferies, and other men of
quality, made a subscription for a public funeral. The body of the poet
was then removed to the Physicians' Hall, where it was embalmed, and lay
in state till the 13th day of May, twelve days after the decease. On
that day, the celebrated Dr. Garth pronounced a Latin oration over the
remains of his departed friend; which were then, with considerable
state, preceded by a band of music, and attended by a numerous
procession of carriages, transported to Westminster Abbey, and deposited
between the graves of Chaucer and Cowley.

The malice of Dryden's contemporaries, which he had experienced through
life, attempted to turn into burlesque these funeral honours. Farquhar,
the comic dramatist, wrote a letter containing a ludicrous account of
the funeral;[51] in which, as Mr. Malone most justly remarks, he only
sought to amuse his fair correspondent by an assemblage of ludicrous and
antithetical expressions and ideas, which, when accurately examined,
express little more than the bustle and confusion which attends every
funeral procession of uncommon splendour. Upon this ground-work, Mrs.
Thomas (the Corinna of Pope and Cromwell) raised, at the distance of
thirty years, the marvellous structure of fable, which has been copied
by all Dryden's biographers, till the industry of Mr. Malone has sent
it, with other figments of the same lady, to "the grave of all the
Capulets."[52] She appears to have been something assisted by a
burlesque account of the funeral, imputed by Mr. Malone to Tom Brown,
who certainly continued to insult Dryden's memory whenever an
opportunity offered.[53] Indeed, Mrs. Thomas herself quotes this last
respectable authority. It must be a well-conducted and uncommon public
ceremony, where the philosopher can find nothing to condemn, nor the
satirist to ridicule; yet, to our imagination, what can be more
striking, than the procession of talent and rank, which escorted the
remains of DRYDEN to the tomb of CHAUCER!

The private character of the individual, his personal appearance, and
rank in society, are the circumstances which generally interest the
public most immediately upon his decease.

We are enabled, from the various paintings and engravings of Dryden, as
well as from the less flattering delineations of the satirists of his
time, to form a tolerable idea of his face and person. In youth, he
appears to have been handsome,[54] and of a pleasing countenance: when
his age was more advanced, he was corpulent and florid, which procured
him the nickname attached to him by Rochester.[55] In his latter days,
distress and disappointment probably chilled the fire of his eye, and
the advance of age destroyed the animation of his countenance.[56]
Still, however, his portraits bespeak the look and features of genius;
especially that in which he is drawn with his waving grey hairs.

In disposition and moral character, Dryden is represented as most
amiable, by all who had access to know him; and his works, as well as
letters, bear evidence to the justice of their panegyric. Congreve's
character of the poet was drawn doubtless favourably, yet it contains
points which demonstrate its fidelity.

"Whoever shall censure me, I dare be confident, you, my lord, will
excuse me for anything that I shall say with due regard to a gentleman,
for whose person I had as just an affection as I have an admiration of
his writings. And indeed Mr. Dryden had personal qualities to challenge
both love and esteem from all who were truly acquainted with him.

"He was of a nature exceedingly humane and compassionate; easily
forgiving injuries, and capable of a prompt and sincere reconciliation
with them who had offended him.

"Such a temperament is the only solid foundation of all moral virtues
and sociable endowments. His friendship, where he professed it, went
much beyond his professions; and I have been told of strong and generous
instances of it by the persons themselves who received them, though his
hereditary income was little more than a bare competency.

"As his reading had been very extensive, so was he very happy in a
memory, tenacious of everything that he had read. He was not more
possessed of knowledge, than he was communicative of it. But then his
communication of it was by no means pedantic, or imposed upon the
conversation; but just such, and went so far, as, by the natural turns
of the discourse in which he was engaged, it was necessarily promoted or
required. He was extreme ready and gentle in his correction of the
errors of any writer, who thought fit to consult him: and full as ready
and patient to admit of the reprehension of others, in respect of his
own oversight or mistakes. He was of very easy, I may say, of very
pleasing access; but something slow, and, as it were, diffident in his
advances to others. He had something in his nature, that abhorred
intrusion into any society whatsoever. Indeed, it is to be regretted,
that he was rather blameable in the other extreme; for, by that means,
he was personally less known, and, consequently, his character might
become liable both to misapprehensions and misrepresentations.

"To the best of my knowledge and observation, he was, of all the men
that I ever knew, one of the most modest, and the most easily to be
discountenanced in his approaches either to his superiors or his

This portrait is from the pen of friendship; yet, if we consider all the
circumstances of Dryden's life, we cannot deem it much exaggerated. For
about forty years, his character, personal and literary, was the object
of assault by every subaltern scribbler, titled or untitled, laureated
or pilloried. "My morals," he himself has said, "have been sufficiently
aspersed; that only sort of reputation, which ought to be dear to every
honest man, and is to me." In such an assault, no weapon would remain
unhandled, no charge, true or false, unurged; and what qualities we do
not there find excepted against, must surely be admitted to pass to the
credit of Dryden. His change of political opinion, from the time he
entered life under the protection of a favourite of Cromwell, might have
argued instability, if he had changed a second time, when the current of
power and popular opinion set against the doctrines of the Reformation.
As it is, we must hold Dryden to have acted from conviction, since
personal interest, had that been the ruling motive of his political
conduct, would have operated as strongly in 1688 as in 1660. The change
of his religion we have elsewhere discussed; and endeavoured to show
that, although Dryden was unfortunate in adopting the more corrupted
form of our religion, yet, considered relatively, it was a fortunate and
laudable conviction which led him from the mazes of scepticism to become
a catholic of the communion of Rome.[57] It would be vain to maintain,
that in his early career he was free from the follies and vices of a
dissolute period; but the absence of every positive charge, and the
silence of numerous accusers, may be admitted to prove, that he partook
in them more from general example than inclination, and with a moderate,
rather than voracious or undistinguishing appetite. It must be admitted,
that he sacrificed to the Belial or Asmodeus of the age, in his
writings; and that he formed his taste upon the licentious and gay
society with which he mingled. But we have the testimony of one who knew
him well, that, however loose his comedies, the temper of the author was
modest;[58] his indelicacy was like the forced impudence of a bashful
man; and Rochester has accordingly upbraided him, that his
licentiousness was neither natural nor seductive. Dryden had
unfortunately conformed enough to the taste of his age, to attempt that
"nice mode of wit," as it is termed by the said noble author, whose name
has become inseparably connected with it; but it sate awkwardly upon his
natural modesty, and in general sounds impertinent, as well as
disgusting. The clumsy phraseology of Burnet, in passing censure on the
immorality of the stage, after the Restoration, terms "Dryden, the
greatest master of dramatic poesy, a monster of immodesty and of
impurity of all sorts." The expression called forth the animated defence
of Granville, Lord Lansdowne, our author's noble friend. "All who knew
him," said Lansdowne, "can testify this was not his character. He was so
much a stranger to immodesty, that modesty in too great a degree was his
failing: he hurt his fortune by it, he complained of it, and never could
overcome it. He was," adds he, "esteemed, courted, and admired, by all
the great men of the age in which he lived, who would certainly not have
received into friendship a monster abandoned to all sorts of vice and
impurity. His writings will do immortal honour to his name and country,
and his poems last as long, if I may have leave to say it, as the
Bishop's sermons, supposing them to be equally excellent in their

The Bishop's youngest son, Thomas Burnet, in replying to Lord Lansdowne,
explained his father's last expressions as limited to Dryden's plays,
and showed, by doing so, that there was no foundation for fixing this
gross and dubious charge upon his private moral character.

Dryden's conduct as a father, husband, and master of a family, seems to
have been affectionate, faithful, and, so far as his circumstances
admitted, liberal and benevolent. The whole tenor of his correspondence
bears witness to his paternal feelings; and even when he was obliged to
have recourse to Tonson's immediate assistance to pay for the presents
he sent them, his affection vented itself in that manner. As a husband,
if Lady Elizabeth's peculiarities of temper precluded the idea of a warm
attachment, he is not upbraided with neglect or infidelity by any of his
thousand assailants. As a landlord, Mr. Malone has informed us, on the
authority of Lady Dryden, that "his little estate at Blakesley is at
this day occupied by one Harriots, grandson of the tenant who held it in
Dryden's time; and he relates, that his grandfather was used to take
great pleasure in talking of our poet. He was, he said, the easiest and
the kindest landlord in the world, and never raised the rent during the
whole time he possessed the estate."

Some circumstances, however, may seem to degrade so amiable a private,
so sublime a poetical character. The licence of his comedy, as we have
seen, had for it only the apology of universal example, and must be
lamented, though not excused. Let us, however, remember, that if in the
hey-day of the merry monarch's reign, Dryden ventured to maintain, that,
the prime end of poetry being pleasure, the muses ought not to be
fettered by the chains of strict decorum; yet in his more advanced and
sober mood, he evinced sincere repentance for his trespass, by patient
and unresisting submission to the coarse and rigorous chastisement of
Collier. If it is alleged, that, in the fury of his loyal satire, he was
not always solicitous concerning its justice, let us make allowance for
the prejudice of party, and consider at what advantage, after the laps
of more than a century, and through the medium of impartial history, we
now view characters, who were only known to their contemporaries as
zealous partisans of an opposite and detested faction. The moderation of
Dryden's reprisals, when provoked by the grossest calumny and personal
insult, ought also to plead in his favour. Of the hundreds who thus
assailed, not only his literary, but his moral reputation, he has
distinguished Settle and Shadwell alone by an elaborate retort. Those
who look into Mr. Luttrell's collections, will at once see the extent of
Dryden's sufferance, and the limited nature of his retaliation.

The extreme flattery of Dryden's dedications has been objected to him,
as a fault of an opposite description; and perhaps no writer has
equalled him in the profusion and elegance of his adulation. "Of this
kind of meanness," says Johnson, "he never seems to decline the
practice, or lament the necessity. He considers the great as entitled to
encomiastic homage, and brings praise rather as a tribute than a gift;
more delighted with the fertility of his invention than mortified by the
prostitution of his judgment." It may be noticed, in palliation of this
heavy charge, that the form of address to superiors must be judged of by
the manners of the times; and that the adulation contained in
dedications was then as much a matter of course, as the words of
submissive style which still precede the subscription Dryden considered
his panegyrics as merely conforming with the fashion of the day, and
rendering unto Caesar the things which were Caesar's,--attended with no
more degradation than the payment of any other tribute to the forms of
politeness and usage of the world.

Of Dryden's general habits of life we can form a distinct idea, from the
evidence assembled by Mr. Malone. His mornings were spent in study; he
dined with his family, probably about two o'clock. After dinner he went
usually to Will's Coffeehouse, the famous rendezvous of the wits of the
time, where he had his established chair by the chimney in winter, and
near the balcony in summer, whence he pronounced, _ex cathedra_, his
opinion upon new publications, and, in general, upon all matters of
dubious criticism.[60] Latterly, all who had occasion to ridicule or
attack him, represent him as presiding in this little senate.[61] His
opinions, however, were not maintained with dogmatism; and we have an
instance, in a pleasing anecdote told by Dr. Lockier,[62] that Dryden
readily listened to criticism, provided it was just, from whatever
unexpected and undignified quarter it happened to come. In general,
however, it may be supposed, that few ventured to dispute his opinion,
or place themselves of his censure. He was most falsely accused of
carrying literary jealousy to such a length, as feloniously to encourage
Creech to venture on a translation of Horace, that he might lose the
character he had gained by a version of Lucretius. But this is
positively contradicted, upon the authority of Southerne.[63]

We have so often stopped in our narrative of Dryden's life, to notice
the respectability of his general society, that little need here be said
on the subject. Although no enemy to conviviality, he is pronounced by
Pope to have been regular in his hours in comparison with Addison, who
otherwise lived the same coffee-house course of life. He has himself
told us, that he was "saturnine and reserved, and not one of those who
endeavour to entertain company by lively sallies of merriment and wit;"
and an adversary has put into his mouth this couplet--

"Nor wine nor love could ever see me gay;
To writing bred, I knew not what to say."

_Dryden's Satire to his Muse._

But the admission of the author, and the censure of the satirist, must
be received with some limitation. Dryden was thirty years old before he
was freed from the fetters of puritanism; and if the habits of lively
expression in society are not acquired before that age, they are seldom
gained afterward. But this applies only to the deficiency of repartee,
in the sharp encounter of wit which was fashionable at the court of
Charles, and cannot be understood to exclude Dryden's possessing the
more solid qualities of agreeable conversation, arising from a memory
profoundly stocked with knowledge, and a fancy which supplied modes of
illustration faster than the author could use them.[64] Some few sayings
of Dryden have been, however, preserved; which, if not witty, are at
least jocose. He is said to have been the original author of the
repartee to the Duke of Buckingham, who, in bowling, offered to lay "his
soul to a turnip," or something still more vile. "Give me the odds,"
said Dryden, "and I take the bet." When his wife wished to be a book,
that she might enjoy more of his company, "Be an almanac then, my dear,"
said the poet, "that I may change you once a year."[65] Another time, a
friend expressing his astonishment that even D'Urfey could write such
stuff as a play they had just witnessed, "Ah, sir," replied Dryden, "you
do not know my friend Tom so well as I do; I'll answer for him, he can
write worse yet." None of these anecdotes intimate great brilliancy of
repartee; but that Dryden, possessed of such a fund of imagination, and
acquired learning, should be dull in conversation, is impossible. He is
known frequently to have regaled his friends, by communicating to them a
part of his labours; but his poetry suffered by his recitation. He read
his productions very ill;[66] owing, perhaps, to the modest reserve of his
temper, which prevented his showing an animation in which he feared his
audience might not participate. The same circumstance may have repressed
the liveliness of his conversation. I know not, however, whether we are,
with Mr. Malone, to impute to diffidence his general habit of consulting
his literary friends upon his poems, before they became public, since it
might as well arise from a wish to anticipate and soften criticism.[67]

Of Dryden's learning, his works form the best proof. He had read
Polybius before he was ten years of age;[68] and was doubtless well
acquainted with the Greek and Roman classics. But from these studies he
could descend to read romances: and the present editor records with
pride, that Dryden was a decided admirer of old ballads and popular
tales.[69] His researches sometimes extended into the vain province of
judicial astrology, in which he was a firm believer; and there is reason
to think that he also credited divination by dreams. In the country, he
delighted in the pastime of fishing, and used, says Mr. Malone, to spend
some time with Mr. Jones of Ramsden, in Wiltshire. D'Urfey was sometimes
of this party; but Dryden appears to have undervalued his skill in
fishing, as much as his attempts at poetry. Hence Fenton, in his Epistle
to Mr. Lambard:

"By long experience, D'Urfey may no doubt
Ensnare a gudgeon, or sometimes a trout;
Yet Dryden once exclaimed, in partial spite,
'_He fish_!'--because the man attempts to write."

I may conclude this notice of Dryden's habits, which I have been enabled
to give chiefly by the researches of Mr. Malone, with two notices of a
minute nature. Dryden was a great taker of snuff, which he made himself.
Moreover, as a preparation to a course of study, he usually took
medicine, and observed a cooling diet.[70]

Dryden's house, which he appears to have resided in from the period of
his marriage till his death, was in Gerrard Street, the fifth on the
left hand coming from Little Newport Street.[71] The back windows looked
upon the gardens of Leicester House, of which circumstance our poet
availed himself to pay a handsome compliment to the noble owner.[72] His
excursions to the country seem to have been frequent; perhaps the more
so, as Lady Elizabeth always remained in town. In his latter days, the
friendship of his relations, John Driden of Chesterton, and Mrs. Steward
of Cotterstock, rendered their houses agreeable places of abode to the
aged poet. They appear also to have had a kind solicitude about his
little comforts, of value infinitely beyond aiding them. And thus
concludes all that we have learned of the private life of Dryden.

The fate of Dryden's family must necessarily interest the admirers of
English literature. It consisted of his wife, Lady Elizabeth Dryden, and
three sons, John, Charles, and Erasmus Henry. Upon the poet's death, it
may be believed, they felt themselves slenderly provided for, since all
his efforts, while alive, were necessary to secure them from the gripe
of penury.

Yet their situation was not very distressing. John and Erasmus Henry
were abroad; and each had an office at Rome, in which he was able to
support himself. Charles had for some time been entirely dependent on
his father, and administered to his effects, as he died without a will.
The liberality of the Duchess of Ormond, and of Driden of Chesterton,
had been lately received, and probably was not expended. There was,
besides, the poet's little patrimonial estate, and a small property in
Wiltshire, which the Earl of Berkshire settled upon Lady Elizabeth at
her marriage, and which yielded L50 or L60 annually. There was therefore
an income of about L100 a year, to maintain the poet's widow and
children; enough in these times to support them in decent frugality.

Lady Elizabeth Dryden's temper had long disturbed her husband's domestic
happiness. "His invectives," says Mr. Malone, "against the married state
are frequent and bitter, and were continued to the latest period of his
life;" and he adds, from most respectable authority, that the family of
the poet held no intimacy with his lady, confining their intercourse to
mere visits of ceremony.[73] A similar alienation seems to have taken
place between her and her own relations, Sir Robert Howard, perhaps,
being excepted; for her brother, the Honourable Edward Howard, talks of
Virgil, as a thing he had learned merely by common report.[74] Her
wayward disposition was, however, the effect of a disordered imagination
which, shortly after Dryden's death, degenerated into absolute insanity,
in which state she remained until her death in summer 1714, probably,
says Mr. Malone, in the seventy-ninth year of her life.

Dryden's three sons, says the inscription by Mrs. Creed, were ingenious
and accomplished gentlemen. Charles, the eldest, and favourite son of
the poet, was born at Charlton, Wiltshire, in 1666. He received a
classical education under Dr. Busby, his father's preceptor, and was
chosen King's Scholar in 1680. Being elected to Trinity College in
Cambridge, he was admitted a member in 1683. It would have been
difficult to conceive that the son of Dryden should not have attempted
poetry; but though Charles Dryden escaped the fate of Icarus, he was
very, very far from emulating his father's soaring flight. Mr. Malone
has furnished a list of his compositions in Latin and English.[75] About
1692, he went to Italy, and through the interest of Cardinal Howard, to
whom he was related by the mother's side, he became Chamberlain of the
Household; not, as Corinna pretends, "to that _remarkably fine
gentleman_, Pope Clement XI.," but to Pope Innocent XII. His way to this
preferment was smoothed by a pedigree drawn up in Latin by his father,
of the families of Dryden and Howard, which is said to have been
deposited in the Vatican. Dryden, whose turn for judicial astrology we
have noticed, had calculated the nativity of his son Charles; and it
would seem that a part of his predictions were fortuitously fulfilled.
Charles, however, having suffered, while at Rome, by a fall, and his
health, in consequence, being much injured, his father prognosticated he
would begin to recover in the month of September 1697. The issue did no
great credit to the prediction; for young Dryden returned to England in
1698 in the same indifferent state of health, as is obvious from the
anxious solicitude with which his father always mentions Charles in his
correspondence. Upon the poet's death, Charles, we have seen,
administered to his effects on 10th June 1700, Lady Elizabeth, his
mother, renouncing the succession. In the next year, Granville conferred
on him the profits arising from the author's night of an alteration of
Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice;" and his liberality to the son of one
great bard may be admitted to balance his presumption in manufacturing a
new drama out of the labours of another.[76] Upon the 20th August 1704,
Charles Dryden was drowned, in an attempt to swim across the Thames, at
Datchet, near Windsor. I have degraded into the Appendix, the romantic
narrative of Corinna, concerning his father's prediction, already
mentioned. It contains, like her account of the funeral of the poet,
much positive falsehood, and gross improbability, with some slight
scantling of foundation in fact.

John Dryden, the poet's second son, was born in 1667, or 1668, was
admitted a King's Scholar in Westminster in 1682, and elected to Oxford
in 1685. Here he became a private pupil of the celebrated Obadiah
Walker, Master of University College, a Roman Catholic. It seems
probable that young Dryden became a convert to that faith before his
father. His religion making it impossible for him to succeed in England,
he followed his brother Charles to Rome, where he officiated as his
deputy in the Pope's household. John Dryden translated the fourteenth
Satire of Juvenal, published in his father's version, and wrote a comedy
entitled, "The Husband his own Cuckold," acted in Lincoln's Inn Fields
in 1696; Dryden, the father, furnishing a prologue, and Congreve an
epilogue. In 1700-1, he made a tour through Sicily and Malta, and his
journal was published in 1706. It seems odd, that in the whole course of
his journal, he never mentions his father's name, nor makes the least
allusion to his very recent death. John Dryden, the younger, died at
Rome soon after this excursion.

Erasmus Henry, Dryden's third son, was born 2d May 1669, and educated in
the Charterhouse, to which he was nominated by Charles II., shortly
after the publication of "Absalom and Achitophel."[77] He does not
appear to have been at any university; probably his religion was the
obstacle. Like his brothers, he went to Rome; and as both his father and
mother request his prayers, we are to suppose he was originally destined
for the Church. But he became a Captain in the Pope's guards, and
remained at Rome till John Dryden, his elder brother's death. After this
event, he seems to have returned to England, and in 1708 succeeded to
the title of Baronet, as representative of Sir Erasmus Driden. the
author's grandfather. But the estate of Canons-Ashby, which should have
accompanied the title, had been devised by Sir Robert Driden, the poet's
first cousin, to Edward Dryden, the eldest son of Erasmus, the younger
brother of the poet. Thus, if the author had lived a few years longer,
his pecuniary embarrassments would have been embittered by his
succeeding to the honours of his family, without any means of sustaining
the rank they gave him. With this Edward Dryden, Sir Erasmus Henry seems
to have resided until his death, which took place at the family mansion
of Canons-Ashby in 1710. Edward acted as a manager of his cousin's
affairs; and Mr. Malone sees reason to think, from their mode of
accounting, that Sir Erasmus Henry had, like his mother, been visited
with mental derangement before his death, and had resigned into Edward's
hands the whole management of his concerns. Thus ended the poet's
family, none of his sons surviving him above ten years. The estate of
Canons-Ashby became again united to the title, in the person of John
Dryden, the surviving brother.[78]


[1] Such, I understand, is the general purport of some letters of
Dryden's, in possession of the Dorset family, which contain certain
particulars rendering them unfit for publication. Our author himself
commemorates Dorset's generosity in the Essay on Satire, in the
following affecting passage: "Though I must ever acknowledge to the
honour of your lordship, and the eternal memory of your charity, that
since this Revolution, wherein I have patiently suffered the ruin of my
small fortune, and the loss of that poor subsistence which I had from
two kings, whom I had served more faithfully than profitably to myself--
then your lordship was pleased, out of no other motive but your own
nobleness, without any desert of mine, or the least solicitation from
me, to make me a most bountiful present, which at that time, when I was
most in want of it, came most seasonably and unexpectedly to my relief.
That favour, my lord, is of itself sufficient to bind any grateful man
to a perpetual acknowledgment, and to all the future service which one
of my mean condition can be ever able to perform. May the Almighty God
return it for me, both in blessing you here, and rewarding you
hereafter!"--_Essay on Satire_, vol. xiii.

[2] So says Ward, in the London Spy.

[3] "Dryden, though my near relation," says Swift, "is one whom I have
often blamed, as well as pitied." Mr. Malone traces their consanguinity
to Swift's grandmother, Elizabeth Dryden, being the daughter of a
brother of Sir Erasmus Driden, the poet's grandfather; so that the Dean
of St. Patrick's was the son of Dryden's second cousin, which, in
Scotland, would even yet be deemed a near relation. The passages in
prose and verse, in which Swift reflects on Dryden, are various. He
mentions, in his best poem, "The Rhapsody,"

"The prefaces of Dryden,
For these our cities much confide in,
Though merely writ at first for filling,
To raise the volume's price a shilling."

He introduces Dryden in "The Battle of the Books," with a most
irreverent description; and many of the brilliant touches in the
following assumed character of a hack author, are directed against our
poet. The malignant allusions to merits, to sufferings, to changes of
opinion, to political controversies, and a peaceful consciences, cannot
be mistaken. The piece was probably composed _flagrante odio_, for it
occurs in the Introduction to "The Tale of a Tub," which was written
about 1692. "These notices may serve to give the learned reader an idea,
as well as taste, of what the whole work is likely to produce, wherein I
have now altogether circumscribed my thoughts and my studies; and, if I
can bring it to a perfection before I die, I shall reckon I have well
employed the poor remains of an unfortunate life. This indeed is more
than I can justly expect, from a quill worn to the pith in the service
of the state, in _pros_ and _cons_ upon popish plots, and meal tubs, and
exclusion bills, and passive obedience, and addresses of lives and
fortunes, and prerogative, and property and liberty of conscience, and
letters to a friend: from an understanding and a conscience, threadbare
and ragged with perpetual turning; from a head broken in a hundred
places by the malignants of the opposite factions; and from a body spent
with poxes ill cured, by trusting to bawds and surgeons, who, as it
afterwards appeared, were professed enemies to me and the government,
and revenged their party's quarrel upon my nose and shins. Fourscore and
eleven pamphlets have I written under three reigns, and for the service
of six and thirty factions. But finding the state has no farther
occasion for me and my ink, I retire willingly to draw it out into
speculations more becoming a philosopher; having, to my unspeakable
comfort, passed a long life with a conscience void of offence." [See
Appendix, vol. xviii., art. "Dryden and Swift."--ED.]

[4] [The exact sentence seems to have been "a Pindaric poet." But as
Swift had tried nothing but Pindarics, it was nearly if not quite as
severe as the more usually quoted and more sweeping verdict.--ED.]

[5] Robert Gould, author of that scandalous lampoon against Dryden,
entitled "The Laureat," inscribes his collection of poems, printed
1688-9, to the Earl of Abingdon; and it contains some pieces addressed
to him and to his lady. He survived also to compose, on the Earl's
death, in 1700, "The Mourning Swan," an eclogue to his memory, in which
a shepherd gives the following account of the proximate cause of that

"_Menaleus_. To tell you true (whoe'er it may displease),
He died of the _Physician_--a disease
That long has reigned, and eager of renown,
More than a plague depopulates the town.
Inflamed with wine, and blasting at a breath,
All its _prescriptions_ are receipts for death.
Millions of mischiefs by its rage are wrought,
Safe where 'tis fled, but barbarous where 'tis sought;
A cursed ingrateful ill, that called to aid,
Is still most fatal where it best is paid."

[6] How far this was necessary, the reader may judge from Mirana, a
funeral eclogue; sacred to the memory of that excellent lady, Eleonora,
late Countess of Abingdon, 1691, 4th Aug., which concludes with the
following singular _imprecation_:

"Hear, friend, my sacred imprecation hear,
And let both of us kneel, and both be bare.
Doom me (ye powers) to misery and shame,
Let mine be the most ignominious name,
Let me, each day, be with new griefs perplext,
Curst in this life, nor blessed in the next,
If I believe the like of her survives,
Or if I think her not the best of mothers, and of wives."

[7] 30th August 1693, Dryden writes to Tonson, "I am sure you thought my
Lord Radclyffe would have done something; I guessed more truly, that he
could not."--Vol. xviii. The expression perhaps applies rather to his
lordship's want of ability than inclination; and Dryden says indeed, in
the dedication, that it is in his nature to be an encourager of good
poets, though fortune has not yet put into his hands the power of
expressing it. In a letter to Mrs. Steward, Dryden speaks of Ratcliffe
as a poet, "and none of the best."--Vol. xviii.

[8] Vol. xviii.

[9] Copied from the Chandos picture. Kneller's copy is now at Wentworth
House, the seat of Earl Fitzwilliam.

[10] The antiquary may now search in vain for this frail memorial; for
the house of Chesterton was, 1807, pulled down for the sake of the

[11] The exact pecuniary arrangements for the Virgil are a matter of
much dispute, almost every biographer taking a different view. It seems
most probable that the payment was fifty pounds per two books, not fifty
for each. The point will be more fully discussed on the letters dealing
with the subject.--Ed.

[12] This gave rise to a good epigram:

"Old Jacob, by deep judgment swayed,
To please the wise beholders,
Has placed old Nassau's hook-nosed head
On poor Aeneas' shoulders.

To make the parallel hold tack,
Methinks there's little lacking;
One took his father pick-a-pack,
And t'other sent his packing."

[13] "I am of your opinion," says the poet to his son Charles, "that, by
Tonson's means, almost all our letters have miscarried for this last
year. But, however, he has missed of his design in the dedication,
though he had prepared the book for it; for, in every figure of Aeneas,
he has caused him to be drawn, like King William, with a hooked nose."
Dryden hints to Tonson himself his suspicion of this unworthy device,
desiring him to forward a letter to his son Charles, but not by post.
"Being satisfied, that Ferrand will do by this as he did by two letters
which I sent my sons, about my dedicating to the king, of which they
received neither."--Vol. xviii.

[14] Johnson's "Life of Dryden."

[15] [Professor Masson calculates, apparently on good grounds, that
Simmons probably made about five or six times what he paid. This, in not
much more than a year, cannot be considered a bad trade return; but the
sale price of "Paradise Lost" seems to provoke unfounded commonplaces
from even the most unexpected sources.--ED.]

[16] "I confess to have been somewhat liberal in the business of titles,
having observed the humour of multiplying them, to bear great vogue
among certain writers, whom I exceedingly reverence. And indeed it seems
not unreasonable that books, the children of the brain, should have the
honour to be christened with variety of names, as well as other infants
of quality. Our famous Dryden has ventured to proceed a point farther,
endeavouring to introduce also a multiplicity of godfathers; which is an
improvement of much more advantage, upon a very obvious account. It is a
pity this admirable invention has not been better cultivated, so as to
grow by this time into general imitation, when such an authority serves
it for a precedent. Nor have my endeavours been wanting to second so
useful an example: but, it seems, there is an unhappy expense usually
annexed to the calling of a godfather, which was clearly out of my head,
as it is very reasonable to believe. Where the pinch lay, I cannot
certainly affirm; but, having employed a world of thoughts and pains to
split my treatise into forty sections, and having entreated forty lords
of my acquaintance, that they would do me the honour to stand, they all
made it a matter of conscience, and sent me their excuses."

[17] Besides the notes on Virgil, he wrote many single sermons, and a
metrical version of the psalms, and died in 1720.

[18] He is described as a rake in "The Pacificator," a poem bought by
Mr. Luttrell, 15th Feb. 1699-1700, which gives an account of a supposed
battle between the men of wit and men of sense, as the poet calls them:

"M----n, a renegade from wit, came on,
And made a false attack, and next to none;
The hypocrite, in sense, could not conceal
What pride, and want of brains, obliged him to reveal.
In him, the critic's ruined by the poet,
And Virgil gives his testimony to it.
The troops of wit were so enraged to see
This priest invade his own fraternity,
They sent a party out, by silence led,
And, without answer, shot the turn-coat dead.
The priest, the rake, the wit, strove all in vain,
For there, alas! he lies among the slain.
_Memento mori_; see the consequence,
When rakes and wits set up for men of sense."

[19] This, Mr. Malone has proved by the following extract from Motteux's
"Gentleman's Journal." "That best of poets (says Motteux) having so long
continued a stranger to tolerable English, Mr. Milbourne pitied his hard
fate; and seeing that several great men had undertaken some episodes of
his Aeneis, without any design of Englishing the whole, he gave us the
first book of it some years ago, with a design to go through the poem.
It was the misfortune of that first attempt to appear just about the
time of the late Revolution, when few had leisure to mind such books;
yet, though by reason of his absence, it was printed with a world of
faults, those that are sufficient judges have done it the justice to
esteem it a very successful attempt, and cannot but wish that he would
complete the entire translation."--_Gent. Journ._ for August 1692.

[20] See the Preface to "A Funeral Idyll, sacred to the glorious Memory
of King William III.," by Mr. Oldmixon.

"In the Idyll on the peace, I made the first essay to throw off rhymes,
and the kind reception that poem met with, has encouraged me to attempt
it again. I have not been persuaded by my friends to change the Idyll
into Idyllium; for having an English word set me by Mr. Dryden, which he
uses indifferently with the Greek, I thought it might be as proper in an
English poem. I shall not be solicitous to justify myself to those who
except against his authority, till they produce me a better: I have
heard him blamed for his innovations and coining of words, even by
persons who have already been sufficiently guilty of the fault they lay
to his charge; and shown us what we are to expect from them, were their
names as well settled as his. If I had qualifications enough to do it
successfully, I should advise them to write more naturally, delicately,
and reasonably themselves, before they attack Mr. Dryden's reputation;
and to think there is something more necessary to make a man write well,
than the favour of the great, or the success of a faction. We have every
year seen how fickle Fortune has been to her declared favourites; and
men of merit, as well as he who has none, have suffered by her
inconstancy, as much as they got by her smiles. This should alarm such
as are eminently indebted to her, and may be of use to them in their
future reflections on others' productions, not to assume too much to
themselves from her partiality to them, lest, when they are left like
their predecessor, it should only serve to render them the more

[21] "Homer in a Nutshell," (16th Feb.) 1700-9, by Samuel Parker, Gent.

"_Preface_.--Ever since I caught some termagant ones in a club,
undervaluing our new translation of Virgil, I've known both what opinion
I ought to harbour, and what use to make of them; and since the
opportunity of a digression so luckily presents itself, I shall make
bold to ask the gentlemen their sentiments of two or three lines (to
pass over a thousand other instances) which they may meet with in that
work. The fourth Aeneid says of Dido, after certain effects of her
taking shelter with Aeneas in the cave appear,

_Conjuijium vocat, hoc proetexit lomine culpam,_ V. 172,

which Mr. Dryden renders thus:

She called it marriage, by that specious name
To veil the crime, and sanctify the shame.

Nor had he before less happily rendered the 39th verse of the second

_Scinditur in certum studia in contraria vulgus._

The giddy vulgar, as their fancies guide,
With noise, say nothing, and in parts divide.

"If these are the lines which they call flat and spiritless, I wish mine
could be flat and spiritless too! And, therefore, to make short work, I
shall only beg Mr. Dryden's leave to congratulate him upon his admirable
flatness, and dulness, in a rapture of poetical indignation:

Then dares the poring critic snarl? And dare
The[21a] puny brats of Momus threaten war?
And can't the proud perverse Arachne's fate
Deter the[21a] mongrels e'er it prove too late?
In vain, alas! we warn the[21a] hardened brood;
In vain expect they'll ever come to good.
No: they'd conceive more venom if they could.
But let each[21a] viper at his peril bite,
While you defy the most ingenious spite.
So Parian columns, raised with costly care,
[21a] Vile snails and worms may daub, yet not impair,
While the tough titles, and obdurate rhyme,
Fatigue the busy grinders of old Time.
Not but your Maro justly may complain,
Since your translation ends his ancient reign,
And but by your officious muse outvied,
That vast immortal name had never died.

"[21a] I desire these appellations may not seem to affect the parties
concerned, any otherwise than as to their character of critics."

[22] Preface to the Fables, vol. xi.

[23] See several extracts from these poems in the Appendix, vol. xviii.,
which I have thrown together to show how much Dryden was considered as
sovereign among the poets of the time.

[24] This I learn from _Honori Sacellum_, a Funeral Poem, to the Memory
of William, Duke of Devonshire, 1707:

"'Twas so, when the destroyer's dreadful dart
Once pierced through ours, to fair Maria's heart.
From his state-helm then some short hours he stole,
T'indulge his melting eyes, and bleeding soul:
Whilst his bent knees, to those remains divine,
Paid their last offering to that royal shrine."

On which lines occurs this explanatory note:--"An Ode, composed by His
Grace, on the death of the late Queen Mary, justly adjudged by the
ingenious Mr. Dryden to have exceeded all that had been written on that

[25] Dr. Birch refers to the authority of Richard Graham, junior; but no
such letter has been recovered.

[26] The authority, however respectable, has a very long chain of links.
Warton heard it from A, who heard it from B, who heard it from Pope, who
heard it from Bolingbroke.--Ed.

[27] This discovery was made by the researches of Mr. Malone. Dr. Burney
describes Clarke as excelling in the tender and plaintive, to which he
was prompted by a temperament of natural melancholy. In the agonies
which arose from an unfortunate attachment, he committed suicide in July
1707. See a full account of the catastrophe in Malone's "Life of
Dryden," p. 299.

[28] It was first performed on February 19, 1735-6, at opera prices.
"The public expectations and the effects of this representation (says
Dr. Burney) seem to have been correspondent, for the next day we are
told in the public papers [London Daily Post, and General Advertiser,
Feb. 20,] that 'there never was, upon the like occasion, so numerous and
splendid an audience at any theatre in London, there being at least
thirteen hundred persons present; and it is judged that the receipts of
the house could not amount to less than L450. It met with general
applause, though attended with the inconvenience of having the
performers placed at too great a distance from the audience, which we
hear will be rectified the next time of performance."--_Hist. of Music_,
iv. 391.

[29] See vol. xviii.

[30] "Thine be the laurel, then; thy blooming age
Can best, if any can, support the stage,
Which to declines, that shortly we may see
Players and plays reduced to second infancy.
Sharp to the world, but thoughtless of renown,
They plot not on the stage, but on the town;
And in despair their empty pit to fill,
Set up some foreign monster in a bill:
Thus they jog on, still tricking, never thriving,
And murth'ring plays, which they miscall--reviving.
Our sense is nonsense, through their pipes conveyed;
Scarce can a poet know the play he made,
'Tis so disguised in death; nor thinks 'tis he
That suffers in the mangled tragedy:
Thus Itys first was killed, and after dressed
For his own sire, the chief invited guest."

This gave great offence to the players; one of whom (Powell) made a
petulant retort, which the reader will find in a note upon the Epistle
itself, vol. xi.

[31] Milbourne, in a note on that passage in the dedication to the
Aeneid--"_He who can write well in rhyme, may write better in blank
verse_," says,--"We shall know that, when we see how much better
Dryden's Homer will be than his Virgil."

[32] "Much the same character he gave of it (_i.e._ Paradise Lost) to
a north-country gentleman, to whom I mentioned the book, he being a
great reader, but not in a right train, coming to town seldom, and
keeping little company. Dryden amazed him with speaking so loftily of
it. 'Why, Mr. Dryden, says he (Sir W.L. told me the thing himself), 'tis
not in rhyme.' 'No, [replied Dryden;] _nor would I have done_ Virgil
_in rhyme, if I was to begin it again._'"--This conversation is supposed
by Mr. Malone to have been held with Sir Wilfrid Lawson, of Isell in

[33] See a letter to Mrs. Thomas, vol. xviii.

[34] "Some of these poets, to excuse their guilt, allege for themselves,
that the degeneracy of the age makes their lewd way of writing
necessary: they pretend the auditors will not be pleased, unless they
are thus entertained from the stage; and to please, they say, is the
chief business of the poet. But this is by no means a just apology: it
is not true, as was said before, that the poet's chief business is to
please. His chief business is to instruct, to make mankind wiser and
better; and in order to this, his care should be to please and entertain
the audience with all the wit and art he is master of. Aristotle and
Horace, and all their critics and commentators all men of wit and sense
agree, that this is the end of poetry. But they say, it is their
profession to write for the stage; and that poets must starve, if they
will not in this way humour the audience: the theatre will be as
unfrequented as the churches, and the poet and the parson equally
neglected. Let the poet then abandon his profession, and take up some
honest lawful calling, where, joining industry to his great wit, he may
soon get above the complaints of poverty, so common among these
ingenious men, and lie under no necessity of prostituting his wit to any
such vile purposes as are here censured. This will-be a course of life
more profitable and honourable to himself, and more useful to others.
And there are among these writers _some, who think they might have risen
to the highest dignities in other professions, had they employed their
wit in those ways._ It is a mighty dishonour and reproach to any man
that is capable of being useful to the world in any _liberal and
virtuous_ profession, _to lavish out his life and wit in propagating
vice and corruption of manners_, and in battering from the stage the
strongest entrenchments and best works of religion and virtue. Whoever
makes this his choice, when the other was in his power, may he go off
the stage unpitied, _complaining of neglect and poverty, the just
punishments of his irreligion and folly!_"

[35] Mr. Malone conceives, that the Fables were published before the
"Satire upon Wit;" but he had not this evidence of the contrary before
him. It is therefore clear, that Dryden endured a second attack from
Blackmore, before making any reply.

[36] Since Scott wrote, the Collier-Congreve controversy has been the
subject of well-known essays by Lamb, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, and Macaulay.
Very recently a fresh and excellent account of Collier's book has
appeared in M.A. Beljame's _Le Public et les Hommes de Lettres en
Angleterre au xviiieme siecle_ (Paris: Hachette, 1881), a remarkable
volume, to which, and to its author, I owe much.--Ed.

[37] In his apology for "The Tale of a Tub," he points out to the
resentment of the clergy, "those heavy illiterate scribblers, prostitute
in their reputations, vicious in their lives, and ruined in their
fortunes, who, to the shame of good sense, as well as piety, are
greedily read, merely upon the strength of bold, false, impious
assertions, mixed with unmannerly reflections on the priesthood." And,
after no great interval, he mentions the passage quoted, p. 375 "in
which Dryden, L'Estrange, and some others I shall not name, are levelled
at; who, having spent their lives in faction, and apostasies, and all
manner of vice, pretended to be sufferers for loyalty and religion. So
Dryden tells us, in one of his prefaces, of his merits and sufferings,
and thanks God that he possesses his soul in patience. In other places
he talks at the same rate."

[38] Vol. xviii.

[39] Thus in a lampoon already quoted (footnote 29, Section VI)

"Quitting my duller hopes, the poor renown
Of Eton College, or a Dublin gown."

Tom Brown makes the charge more directly. "But, prithee, why so severe
always on the priesthood, Mr. Bayes? What have they merited to pull down
your indignation? I thought the ridiculing men of that character upon
the stage, was by this time a topic as much worn out with you, as love
and honour in the play, or good fulsome flattery in the dedication. But
you, I find, still continue your old humour, to date from the year of
Hegira, the loss of Eton, or since orders were refused you. Whatever
hangs out, either black or green colours is presently your prize: and
you would, by your good will, be as mortifying a vexation to the whole
tribe, as an unbegetting year, a concatenation of briefs, or a voracious
visitor; so that I am of opinion, you had much better have written in
your title-page,

Manet alta mente repostum
Judicium _Cleri_, spretaeque injuria _Musoe_."

The same reproach is urged by Settle. See vol. ix.

[40] Vol. xviii. [The _Diary_ had not been deciphered when Scott wrote.

[41] There was, to be sure, in the provoking scruples of that rigid
sect, something peculiarly tempting to a satirist. How is it possible to
forgive Baxter, for the affectation with which he records the enormities
of his childhood?

"Though my conscience," says he, "would trouble me when I sinned, yet
divers sins I was addicted to, and oft committed against my conscience,
which, for the warning of others, I will here confess to my shame. I was
much addicted to the _excessive gluttonous eating of apples and pears_,
which I think laid the foundation of the imbecility and flatulency of my
stomach, which caused the bodily calamities of my life. To this end, and
to concur with naughty boys that gloried in evil, I have oft gone into
other men's orchards, and stolen the fruit, when I had enough at home."
There are six other retractions of similar enormities, when he
concludes: "These were my sins in my childhood, as to which, conscience
troubled me for a great while before they were overcome." Baxter was a
pious and worthy man; but can any one read this confession without
thinking of Tartuffe, who subjected himself to penance for killing a
flea, with too much anger?

[42] See vol. xviii. Mr. Malone thinks tradition has confounded a
present made to the poet himself probably of L100, with a legacy
bequeathed to his son Charles, which last did amount to L500, but which
Charles lived not to receive.

[43] She is distinguished for beauty and virtue, by the author of "The
Court at Kensington." 1699-1700.

"So Ormond's graceful mien attracts all eyes,
And nature needs not ask from art supplies;
An heir of grandeur shines through every part,
And in her beauteous form is placed the noblest heart:
In vain mankind adore, unless she were
By Heaven made less virtuous, or less fair."

[44] Gildon, in his "Comparison between the Stages."--"Nay then," says
the whole party at Drury-lane, "we'll even put 'The Pilgrim' upon him."
"Ay, 'faith, so we will," says Dryden: "and if you'll let my son have
the profits of the third night, I'll give you a Secular Masque." "Done,"
says the House; and so the bargain was struck.

[45] _i.e._ Upon the 25th March 1700; it being supposed (as by many in
our own time) that the century was concluded so soon as the hundredth
year commenced; as if a play was ended at the _beginning of the fifth

[46] It was again set by Dr. Boyce, and in 1749 performed in the
Drury-lane theatre, with great success.

[47] By a letter to Mrs. Steward, dated the 11th April 1700, it appears
they were then only in his contemplation, and the poet died upon the
first of the succeeding month. Vol. xviii.

"Quick Maurus, though he never took degrees
In either of our universities,
Yet to be shown by Rome kind wit he looks,
Because he played the fool, and writ three books.
But if he would be worth a poet's pen,
He must be more a fool, and write again:
For all the former fustian stuff he wrote
Was dead-born doggrel, or is quite forgot;
His man of Uz, stript of his Hebrew robe,
Is just the proverb, and 'As poor as Job.'
One would have thought he could no longer jog;
But Arthur was a level, Job's a bog.
_There_ though he crept, yet still he kept in sight;
But _here_ he founders in, and sinks downright.
Had he prepared us, and been dull by rule,
Tobit had first been turned to ridicule;
But our bold Briton, without fear or awe,
O'erleaps at once the whole Apocrypha;
Invades the Psalms with rhymes, and leaves no room
For any Vandal Hopkins yet to come.
But when, if, after all, this godly gear
Is not so senseless as it would appear,
Our mountebank has laid a deeper train;
His cant, like Merry Andrew's noble vein,
Cat-calls the sects to draw them in again.
At leisure hours in epic song he deals,
Writes to the rumbling of his coach's wheels;
Prescribes in haste, and seldom kills by rule,
But rides triumphant between stool and stool.
Well, let him go,--'tis yet too early day
To get himself a place in farce or play;
We know not by what name we should arraign him,
For no one category can contain him.
A pedant,--canting preacher,--and a quack,
Are load enough to break an ass's back.
At last, grown wanton, he presumed to write,
Traduced two kings, their kindness to requite;
One made the doctor, and one dubbed the knight."

[49] One of these well-meaning persons insulted the ashes of Dryden
while they were still warm, in "An Epistle to Sir Richard Blackmore,
occasioned by the New Session of the Poets." Marked by Mr. Luttrell, 1st
November 1700.

"His mighty Dryden to the shades is gone,
And Congreve leaves successor of his throne:
Though long before his final exit hence,
He was himself an abdicated Prince;
Disrobed of all regalities of state,
Drawn by a hind and panther from his seat.
Heir to his plays, his fables, and his tales,
Congreve is the poetic prince of Wales;
Not at St. Germains, but at Will's, his court,
Whither the subjects of his dad resort;
Where plots are hatched, and councils yet unknown,
How young Ascanius may ascend the throne,
That in despite of all the Muses' laws,
He may revenge his injured father's cause,
Go, nauseous rhymers, into darkness go,
And view your monarch in the shades below,
Who takes not now from Helicon his drink,
But sips from Styx a liquor black as ink;
Like Sisyphus a restless stone he turns,
And in a pile of his own labours burns;
Whose curling flames most ghastly fiends do raise,
Supplied with fuel from his impious plays;
And when he fain would puff away the flame,
One stops his mouth with bawdy Limberham;
There, to augment the terrors of the place,
His Hind and Panther stare him in the face;
They grin like devils at the cursed toad,
Who made [them] draw on earth so vile a load.
Could some infernal painter draw the sight,
And once transmit it to the realms of light,
It might our poets from their sins affright;
Or could they hear, how there the sons of verse
In dismal yells their tortures do express;
How scorched with ballads on the Stygian shore,
They horrors in a dismal chorus roar;
Or see how the laureate does his grandeur bear,
Crowned with a wreath of flaming sulphur there.
This, sir, 's your fate, cursed critics you oppose,
The most tyrannical and cruel foes;
Dryden, their huntsman dead, no more he wounds,
But now you must engage his pack of hounds."

[50] According to Ward, his expressions were, "that he was an old man,
and had not long to live by course of nature, and therefore did not care
to part with one limb, at such an age, to preserve an uncomfortable life
on the rest."--_London Spy_, Part xviii.

[51] "I come now from Mr. Dryden's funeral, where we had an Ode in
Horace sung, instead of David's Psalms; whence you may find, that we
don't think a poet worth Christian burial. The pomp of the ceremony was
a kind of rhapsody, and fitter, I think, for Hudibras, than him; because
the cavalcade was mostly burlesque: but he was an extraordinary man, and
buried after an extraordinary fashion; for I do believe there was never
such another burial seen. The oration, indeed, was great and ingenious,
worthy the subject, and like the author; whose prescriptions can restore
the living, and his pen embalm the dead. And so much for Mr. Dryden;
whose burial was the same as his life,--variety, and not of a piece:--
the quality and mob, farce and heroics; the sublime and ridicule mixed
in a piece;--great Cleopatra in a hackney coach."

[52] Those who wish to peruse this memorable romance may find it in vol.
xviii. It was first published in Wilson's "Life of Congreve," 1730. Mr.
Malone has successfully shown that it is false in almost all its parts;
for, independently of the extreme improbability of the whole story, it
is clear, from Ward's account, written at the time, that Lord Jefferies,
who it is pretended interrupted the funeral, did, in fact, largely
contribute to it. This also appears from a paragraph, in a letter from
Doctor afterwards Bishop Tanner, dated May 6th, 1700, and thus given by
Mr. Malone:--"Mr. Dryden died a papist, if at all a Christian. Mr.
Montague had given orders to bury him; but some lords (my Lord Dorset,
Jefferies, etc.), thinking it would not be splendid enough, ordered him
to be carried to Russel's: there he was embalmed; and now lies in state
at the Physicians' College, and is to be buried with Chaucer, Cowley,
etc., at Westminster Abbey, on Monday next."--_MSS. Ballard. in Bibl.
Bodl._ vol. iv. p. 29.

[53] The following lines are given by Mr. Malone as a specimen:--

"Before the hearse the mourning hautboys go,
And screech a dismal sound of grief and woe:
More dismal notes from bog-trotters may fall,
More dismal plaints at Irish funeral;
But no such floods of tears e'er stopped our tide,
Since Charles, the martyr and the monarch, died.
The decency and order first describe,
Without regard to either sex or tribe.
The sable coaches led the dismal van,
But by their side, I think, few footmen ran;
Nor needed these; the rabble fill the streets,
And mob with mob in great disorder meets.
See next the coaches, how they are accouter'd,
Both in the inside, eke and on the outward:
One p----y spark, one sound as any roach,
One poet and two fiddlers in a coach:
The playhouse drab, that beats the beggar's bush,
* * * * *
By everybody kissed, good truth,--but such is
Now her good fate, to ride with mistress Duchess.
Was e'er immortal poet thus buffooned!
In a long line of coaches thus lampooned!"

[54] [Transcriber's note: "Page 73" in original. See Footnote 14,
Section II.]

[55] [Transcriber's note: "'Poet Squab,' p. 215" in original. See
Footnote 14, Section V.]

[56] From "Epigrams on the Paintings of the most eminent Masters," by
J.E. (John Elsum), Esq., 8vo, 1700, Mr. Malone gives the following

The Effigies of Mr. Dryden, by Closterman,
_Epig_. clxiv.

"A sleepy eye he shows, and no sweet feature,
Yet was indeed a favourite of nature:
Endowed and graced with an exalted mind,
With store of wit, and that of every kind.
Juvenal's tartness, Horace's sweet air,
With Virgil's force, in him concentered were.
But though the painter's art can never show it,
That his exemplar was so great a poet,
Yet are the lines and tints so subtly wrought,
You may perceive he was a man of thought.
Closterman, 'tis confessed, has drawn him well,
But short of Absalom and Achitophel."

[57] [Transcriber's note: "See pages 258-261" in original. This
corresponds to the discussion on Dryden's conversion to Catholicism,
Section VI.]

[58] A correspondent of the Gentleman's Magazine, in 1745, already
quoted, says of him as a personal acquaintance: "Posterity is absolutely
mistaken as to that great man: though forced to be a satirist, he was
the mildest creature breathing, and the readiest to help the young and
deserving. Though his comedies are horribly full of _double entendre_,
yet 'twas owing to a false complaisance. He was, in company, the
modestest man that ever conversed."

[59] Letter to the author of "Reflections Historical and Political."
4to, 1732.

[60] See vol. xi.; vol. xviii. From the poem in the passage last quoted,
it seems that the original sign of Will's Coffee-house had been a _cow._
It was changed however, to a _rose_, in Dryden's time. This wit's
coffeehouse was situated at the end of Bow-street, on the north side of
Russel-street, and frequented by all who made any pretence to
literature, or criticism. Their company, it would seem, was attended
with more honour than profit; for Dennis describes William Envin, or
Urwin, who kept the house, as taking refuge in White-friars, then a
place of asylum, to escape the clutches of his creditors. "For since the
law," says the critic, "thought it just to put Will out of its
protection, Will thought it but prudent to put himself out of its

[61] See Appendix, vol. xviii.; vol. xi.

[62] The Dean of Peterborough. "I was," says he, "about seventeen, when
I first came to town; an odd-looking boy, with short rough hair, and
that sort of awkwardness which one always brings out of the country with
one: however, in spite of my bashfulness and appearance, I used now and
then to thrust myself into Will's, to have the pleasure of seeing the
most celebrated wits of that time, who used to resort thither. The
second time that ever I was there, Mr. Dryden was speaking of his own
things, as he frequently did, especially of such as had been lately
published. If anything of mine is good (says he), 'tis my Mac-Flecknoe;
and I value myself the more on it, because it is the first piece of
ridicule written in heroics.' Lockier overhearing this, plucked up his
spirit so far, as to say, in a voice just loud enough to be heard, that
Mac-Flecknoe was a very fine poem, but that he had not imagined it to be
the first that ever was wrote that way. On this Dryden turned short upon
him, as surprised at his interposing; asked him how long he had been a
dealer in poetry; and added, with a smile,--'But pray, sir, what is it,
that you did imagine to have been writ so before?' Lockier named
Boileau's Lutrin, and Tassoni's Secchia Rapita; which he had read, and
knew Dryden had borrowed some strokes from each. ''Tis true,' says
Dryden;--'I had forgot them.' A little after, Dryden went out, and in
going spoke to Lockier again, and desired him to come to him the next
day. Lockier was highly delighted with the invitation, and was well
acquainted with him as long as he lived."--MALONE, vol. i. p. 481.

[63] "I have often heard," says Mr. George Russell, "that Mr. Dryden,
dissatisfied and envious at the reputation Creech obtained by his
translation of Lucretius, purposely advised him to undertake Horace, to
which he knew him unequal, that he might by his ill performance lose the
fame he had acquired. Mr. Southerne, author of 'Oroonoko,' set me right
as to the conduct of Mr. Dryden in this affair; affirming that, being
one evening at Mr. Dryden's lodgings, in company with Mr. Creech, and
some other ingenious men, Mr. Creech told the company of his design to
translate Horace; from which Mr. Dryden, with many arguments, dissuaded
him, as an attempt which his genius was not adapted to, and which would
risk his losing the good opinion the world had of him, by his successful
translation of Lucretius. I thought it proper to acquaint you with this
circumstance, since it rescues the fame of one of our greatest poets
from the imputation of envy and malevolence." See also, upon this
subject, a note in vol. viii. Yet Jacob Tonson told Spence, "that Dryden
would compliment Crowne when a play of his failed, but was cold to him
if he met with success. He used sometimes to say, that Crowne had some
genius; but then he always added, that his father and Crowne's mother
were very well acquainted."--MALONE, vol. i. p. 500.

[64] His conversation is thus characterised by a contemporary writer:

"O, Sir, there's a medium in all things. Silence and chat are distant
enough, to have a convenient discourse come between them; and thus far I
agree with you, that the company of the author of 'Absalom and
Achitophel' is more valuable, though not so talkative, than that of the
modern men of _banter_; for what he says is like what he writes, much to
the purpose, and full of mighty sense; and if the town were for anything
desirable, it were for the conversation of him, and one or two more of
the same character."--_The Humours and Conversation of the Town exposed,
in two Dialogues_, 1693, p. 73

[65] [This story is probably as old as the first married pair of whom
the husband was studious. It certainly appears without names in the
_Historiettes_ of Tallemant des Reaux, most of which were written five
years before Dryden's marriage.--ED]

[66] "When Dryden, our first great master of verse and harmony, brought
his play of 'Amphitryon' to the stage, I heard him give it his first
reading to the actors; in which, though it is true he delivered the
plain sense of every period, yet the whole was in so cold, so flat, and
unaffecting a manner, that I am afraid of not being believed, when I
affirm it."--_Cibber's Apology_, 4to.

[67] [Transcriber's note: "See page 112" in original. This is to be
found in Section III.]

[68] Vol. xviii.

[69] "I find (says Gildon) Mr. Bayes, the younger [Rowe], has two
qualities, like Mr. Bayes, the elder; his admiration of some odd books,
as 'Reynard the Fox,' and the old ballads of 'Jane Shore,' etc."--
_Remarks on Mr. Rome's Plays_. "Reynard the Fox" is also mentioned in
"The Town and Country Mouse," as a favourite book of Dryden. And
Addison, in the 85th number of the Spectator, informs us, that Dorset
and Dryden delighted in perusing the collection of old ballads which the
latter possessed.

[70] Vol. xviii.

[71] It is now No. 43.

[72] Vol. vii.

[73] [The unfavourable accounts of Lady Elizabeth's temper after
marriage are not much better founded than those of her maidenly or
unmaidenly conduct before it. Dryden's supposed to almost all his
contemporaries in _belles-lettres_. There is no sign in his letters of
any conjugal unhappiness, and Malone's "respectable authority" is family
gossip a century after date.--ED.]

[74] [Transcriber's note: "P. 85" in original. This is to be found in
Section II.]

[75] These are--1. Latin verses prefixed to Lord Roscommon's Essay on
Translated Verse. 2. Latin verses on the Death of Charles II., published
in the Cambridge collection of Elegies on that occasion. 3. A poem in
the same language, upon Lord Arlington's Gardens, published in the
Second Miscellany. 4. A translation of the seventh Satire of Juvenal,
mentioned in the text. 5. An English poem, on the Happiness of a Retired
Life. 6. A pretty song, printed by Mr. Malone, to which Charles Dryden
also composed music.

[76] The prologue was spoken by the ghosts of Shakespeare and Dryden;
from which Mr. Malone selects the following curious quotation:--"Mr.
Bevil Higgons, the writer of it, _ventured_ to make the representative
of our great dramatic poet speak these lines!--

"These scenes in their rough native dress were mine;
_But now, improved, with nobler lustre shine_
The first rude sketches Shakespeare's pencil drew,
_But all the shining master strokes are new._
This play, ye critics, shall your fury stand,
Adorned and rescued by a faultless hand."

To which our author replies,

"I long endeavoured to support the stage,
With the faint copies of thy nobler rage,
But toiled in vain for an ungenerous age.
They starved me living, nay, denied me fame,
And scarce, now dead, do justice to my name.
Would you repent? Be to my ashes kind;
Indulge the pledges I have left behind."--MALONE.

[77] [Transcriber's note: "Page 206, and vol. ix." in original. This is
to be found in Section V.]

[78] Mr. Malone says, "Edward Dryden, the eldest son of the last Sir
Erasmus Dryden, left by his wife, Elizabeth Allen, who died in London in
1761, five sons; the youngest of whom, Bevil, was father of the present
Lady Dryden. Sir John, the eldest, survived all his brothers, and died
without issue, at Canons-Ashby, March 20, 1770." [The subsequent history
of the family is as follows:--Elizabeth Dryden, the "present Lady
Dryden" referred to by Scott, married Mr. John Turner, to whom she
carried the estates. Mr. Turner assumed the name and arms of Dryden in
1791, and was created a baronet four years later. The title and property
passed successively to his two sons, and then to the son of the younger,
the present Sir Henry Dryden, a distinguished archaeologist.--ED.]


_The State of Dryden's Reputation at his Death, and afterwards--The
General Character of his Mind--His Merit as a Dramatist--As a Lyrical
Poet---As a Satirist--As a Narrative Poet--As a Philosophical and
Miscellaneous Poet--As a Translator--As a Prose Author--As a Critic._

If Dryden received but a slender share of the gifts of fortune, it was
amply made up to him in reputation. Even while a poet militant upon
earth, he received no ordinary portion of that applause, which is too
often reserved for the "dull cold ear of death." He combated, it is
true, but he conquered; and, in despite of faction, civil and religious,
of penury, and the contempt which follows it, of degrading patronage,
and rejected solicitation, from 1666 to the year of his death, the name
of Dryden was first in English literature. Nor was his fame limited to
Britain. Of the French literati, although Boileau,[1] with unworthy
affectation, when he heard of the honours paid to the poet's remains,
pretended ignorance even of his name, yet Rapin, the famous critic,
learned the English language on purpose to read the works of Dryden.[2]
Sir John Shadwell, the son of our author's ancient adversary, bore an
honourable and manly testimony to the general regret among the men of
letters at Paris for the death of Dryden. "The men of letters here
lament the loss of Mr. Dryden very much. The honours paid to him have
done our countrymen no small service; for, next to having so
considerable a man of our own growth, 'tis a reputation to have known
how to value him; as patrons very often pass for wits, by esteeming
those that are so." And from another authority we learn, that the
engraved copies of Dryden's portrait were bought up with avidity on the

But it was in England where the loss of Dryden was chiefly to be felt.
It is seldom the extent of such a deprivation is understood, till it has
taken place; as the size of an object is best estimated, when we see the
space void which it had long occupied. The men of literature, starting
as it were from a dream, began to heap commemorations, panegyrics, and
elegies: the great were as much astonished at their own neglect of such
an object of bounty, as if the same had never been practised before; and
expressed as much compunction, as it were never to occur again. The
poets were not silent; but their strains only evinced their woful
degeneracy from him whom they mourned. Henry Playford, a publisher of
music, collected their effusions into a compilation, entitled, "Luctus
Britannici, or the Tears of the British Muses, for the death of John
Dryden;" which he published about two months after Dryden's death.[4]
Nine ladies, assuming each the character of a Muse, and clubbing a
funeral ode, or elegy, produced "The Nine Muses;" of which very rare
(and very worthless) collection, I have given a short account in the
Appendix; where the reader will also find an ode on the same subject, by
Oldys, which may serve for ample specimen of the poetical lamentations
over Dryden.

The more costly, though equally unsubstantial, honour of a monument, was
projected by Montague; and loud were the acclamations of the poets on
his generous forgiveness of past discords with Dryden, and the
munificence of this universal patron. But Montague never accomplished
his purpose, if he seriously entertained it. Pelham, Duke of Newcastle,
announced the same intention; received the panegyric of Congreve for
having done so; and having thus pocketed the applause, proceeded no
further than Montague had done. At length Pope, in some lines which were
rather an epitaph on Dryden, who lay in the vicinity, than on Rowe, over
whose tomb they were to be placed,[5] roused Dryden's original patron,
Sheffield, formerly Earl of Mulgrave, and now Duke of Buckingham, to
erect over the grave of his friend the present simple monument which
distinguishes it. The inscription was comprised in the following
words:--_J. Dryden. Natus 1632. Mortuus I Maii 1700. Joannes Sheffield,
Duxx Buckinghamiensis posuit, 1720_.[6]

In the school of reformed English poetry, of which Dryden must be
acknowledged as the founder, there soon arose disciples not unwilling to
be considered as the rivals of their muster. Addison had his partisans,
who were desirous to hold him up in this point of view; and he himself
is said to have taken pleasure, with the assistance of Steele, to
depreciate Dryden, whose fame was defended by Pope and Congreve. No
serious invasion of Dryden's pre-eminence can be said, however, to have
taken place, till Pope himself, refining upon that structure of
versification which our author had first introduced, and attending with
sedulous diligence to improve every passage to the highest pitch of
point and harmony, exhibited a new style of composition, and claimed at
least to share with Dryden the sovereignty of Parnassus. I will not
attempt to concentrate what Johnson has said upon this interesting

"In acquired knowledge, the superiority must be allowed to Dryden, whose
education was more scholastic, and who, before he became an author, had
been allowed more time for study, with better means of information. His
mind has a larger range, and he collects his images and illustrations
from a more extensive circumference of science. Dryden knew more of man
in his general nature, and Pope in his local manners. The notions of
Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation, and those of Pope by
minute attention. There is more dignity in the knowledge of Dryden, and
more certainty in that of Pope.

"Poetry was not the sole praise of either; for both excelled likewise in
prose; but Pope did not borrow his prose from his predecessor. The style
of Dryden is capricious and varied, that of Pope is cautious and
uniform. Dryden obeys the motions of his own mind, Pope constrains his
mind to his own rules of composition. Dryden is sometimes vehement and
rapid; Pope is always smooth, uniform, and gentle. Dryden's page is a
natural field, rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied
exuberance of abundant vegetation; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shaven by
the scythe, and levelled by the roller.

"Of genius, that power which constitutes a poet; that quality, without
which judgment is cold, and knowledge is inert; that energy, which
collects, combines, amplifies, and animates; the superiority must, with
some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden. It is not to be inferred, that of
this poetical vigour Pope had only a little, because Dryden had more;
for every other writer, since Milton, must give place to Pope: and even
of Dryden it must be said, that if he has brighter paragraphs, he has
not better poems. Dryden's performances were always hasty, either
excited by some external occasion, or extorted by domestic necessity; he
composed without consideration, and published without correction. What
his mind could supply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that
he sought, and all that he gave. The dilatory caution of Pope enabled
him to condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and to
accumulate all that study might produce, or chance might supply. If the
flights of Dryden, therefore, are higher, Pope continues longer on the
wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter, of Pope the heat is
more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope
never falls below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and
Pope with perpetual delight."[7]

As the eighteenth century advanced, the difference between the styles of
these celebrated authors became yet more manifest. It was then obvious,
that though Pope's felicity of expression, his beautiful polish of
sentiment, and the occasional brilliancy of his wit, were not easily
imitated, yet many authors, by dint of a good ear, and a fluent
expression, learned to command the unaltered sweetness of his melody,
which, like a favourite tune, when descended to hawkers and
ballad-singers, became disgusting as it became common. The admirers of
poetry then reverted to the brave negligence of Dryden's versification,
as, to use Johnson's simile, the eye, fatigued with the uniformity of a
lawn, seeks variety in the uncultivated glade or swelling mountain. The
preference for which Dennis, asserting the cause of Dryden, had raved
and thundered in vain, began, by degrees, to be assigned to the elder
bard; and many a poet sheltered his harsh verses and inequalities under
an assertion that he belonged to the school of Dryden. Churchill--

"Who, born for the universe, narrowed his mind,
And to party gave up what was meant for mankind,"--

Churchill was one of the first to seek in the "Mac-Flecknoe," the
"Absalom," and "The Hind and Panther," authority for bitter and personal
sarcasm, couched in masculine, though irregular versification, dashed
from the pen without revision, and admitting occasional rude and flat
passages, to afford the author a spring to comparative elevation. But
imitation always approaches to caricature; and the powers of Churchill
have been unable to protect him from the oblivion into which his poems
are daily sinking, owing to the ephemeral interest of political
subjects, and his indolent negligence of severe study and regularity. To
imitate Dryden, it were well to study his merits, without venturing to
adopt the negligences and harshness, which the hurry of his composition,
and the comparative rudeness of his age, rendered in him excusable. At
least, those who venture to sink as low, should be confident of the
power of soaring as high; for surely it is a rash attempt to dive,
unless in one conscious of ability to swim. While the beauties of Dryden
may be fairly pointed out as an object of emulation, it is the less
pleasing, but not less necessary, duty of his biographer and editor, to
notice those deficiencies, which his high and venerable name may excuse,
but cannot render proper objects of applause or imitation.

So much occasional criticism has been scattered in various places
through these volumes, that, while attempting the consideration of one
or two of his distinguishing and pre-eminent compositions, which have
been intentionally reserved to illustrate a few pages of general
criticism, I feel myself free from the difficult, and almost
contradictory task, of drawing my maxims and examples from the extended
course of his literary career.

My present task is limited to deducing his poetic character from those
works which he formed on his last and most approved model. The general
tone of his genius, however, influenced the whole course of his
publications; and upon that, however his taste, a few preliminary
notices may not be misplaced.

The distinguishing characteristic of Dryden's genius seems to have been
the power of reasoning, and of expressing the result in appropriate
language.[8] This may seem slender praise; yet these were the talents
that led Bacon into the recesses of philosophy, and conducted Newton to
the cabinet of nature. The prose works of Dryden bear repeated evidence
to his philosophical powers. His philosophy was not indeed of a formed
and systematic character; for he is often contented to leave the path of
argument which must have conducted him to the fountain of truth, and to
resort with indolence or indifference to the leaky cisterns which had
been hewn out by former critics. But where his pride or his taste are
interested, he shows evidently, that it was not want of the power of
systematising, but of the time and patience necessary to form a system,
which occasions the discrepancy that we often notice in his critical and
philological disquisitions. This power of ratiocination, of
investigating, discovering, and appreciating that which is really
excellent, if accompanied with the necessary command of fanciful
illustration, and elegant expression, is the most interesting quality
which can be possessed by a poet. It must indeed have a share in the
composition of everything that is truly estimable in the fine arts, as
well as in philosophy. Nothing is so easily attained as the power of
presenting the extrinsic qualities of fine painting, fine music, or fine
poetry; the beauty of colour and outline, the combination of notes, the
melody of versification, may be imitated by artists of mediocrity; and
many will view, hear, or peruse their performances, without being able
positively to discover why they should not, since composed according to
all the rules, afford pleasure equal to those of Raphael, Handel, or
Dryden. The deficiency lies in the vivifying spirit, which, like
_alcohol_, may be reduced to the same principle in all, though it
assumes such varied qualities from the mode in which it is exerted or
combined. Of this power of intellect, Dryden seems to have possessed
almost an exuberant share, combined, as usual, with the faculty of
correcting his own conceptions, by observing human nature, the practical
and experimental philosophy as well of poetry as of ethics or physics.
The early habits of Dryden's education and poetical studies gave his
researches somewhat too much of a metaphysical character; and it was a
consequence of his mental acuteness, that his dramatic personages often
philosophised or reasoned, when they ought only to have felt. The more
lofty, the fiercer, the more ambitious feelings, seem also to have been
his favourite studies. Perhaps the analytical mode in which he exercised
his studies of human life tended to confine his observation to the more
energetic feelings of pride, anger, ambition, and other high-toned
passions. He that mixes in public life must see enough of these stormy
convulsions; but the finer and more imperceptible operations of love, in
its sentimental modifications, if the heart of the author does not
supply an example from its own feelings, cannot easily be studied at the
expense of others. Dryden's bosom, it must be owned, seems to have
afforded him no such means of information; the licence of his age, and
perhaps the advanced period at which he commenced his literary career,
had probably armed him against this more exalted strain of passion. The
love of the senses he has in many places expressed, in as forcible and
dignified colouring as the subject could admit; but of a mere moral and
sentimental passion he seems to have had little idea, since he
frequently substitutes in its place the absurd, unnatural, and
fictitious refinements of romance. In short, his love is always in
indecorous nakedness, or sheathed in the stiff panoply of chivalry. But
if Dryden fails in expressing the milder and more tender passions, not
only did the stronger feelings of the heart, in all its dark or violent
workings, but the face of natural objects, and their operation upon the
human mind, pass promptly in review at his command. External pictures,
and their corresponding influence on the spectator, are equally ready at
his summons; and though his poetry, from the nature of his subjects, is
in general rather ethic and didactic, than narrative of composition,
than his figures and his landscapes are presented to the mind with the
same vivacity as the flow of his reasoning, or the acute metaphysical
discrimination of his characters.

But the powers of observation and of deduction are not the only
qualities essential to the poetical character. The philosopher may
indeed prosecute his experimental researches into the _arcana_ of
nature, and announce them to the public through the medium of a friendly
_redacteur_, as the legislator of Israel obtained permission to speak to
the people by the voice of Aaron; but the poet has no such privilege;
nay, his doom is so far capricious, that, though he may be possessed of
the primary quality of poetical conception to the highest possible
extent, it is but like a lute without its strings, unless he has the
subordinate, though equally essential, power of expressing what he feels
and conceives, in appropriate and harmonious language. With this power
Dryden's poetry was gifted in a degree, surpassing in modulated harmony
that of all who had preceded him, and inferior to none that has since
written English verse. He first showed that the English language was
capable of uniting smoothness and strength. The hobbling verses of his
predecessors were abandoned even by the lowest versifiers; and by the
force of his precept and example, the meanest lampooners of the year
seventeen hundred wrote smoother lines than Donne and Cowley, the chief
poets of the earlier half of the seventeenth century. What was said of
Rome adorned by Augustus, has been, by Johnson, applied to English
poetry improved by Dryden; that he found it of brick, and left it of
marble. This reformation was not merely the effect of an excellent ear,
and a superlative command of gratifying it by sounding language; it was,
we have seen, the effect of close, accurate, and continued study of the
power of the English tongue. Upon what principles he adopted and
continued his system of versification, he long meditated to communicate
in his projected prosody of English poetry. The work, however, might
have been more curious than useful, as there would have been some danger
of its diverting the attention, and misguiding the efforts of poetical
adventurers; for as it is more easy to be masons than architects, we may
deprecate an art which might teach the world to value those who can
build rhymes, without attending to the more essential qualities of
poetry. Strict attention might no doubt discover the principle of
Dryden's versification; but it seems no more essential to the analysing
his poetry, than the principles of mathematics to understanding music,
although the art necessarily depends on them. The extent in which Dryden
reformed our poetry, is most readily proved by an appeal to the ear; and
Dr. Johnson has forcibly stated, that "he knew how to choose the flowing
and the sonorous words; to vary the pauses and adjust the accents; to
diversify the cadence, and yet preserve the smoothness of the metre." To
vary the English hexameter, he established the use of the triplet and
Alexandrine. Though ridiculed by Swift, who vainly thought he had
exploded them for ever, their force is still acknowledged in classical

Of the various kinds of poetry which Dryden occasionally practised, the
drama was that which, until the last six years of his life, he chiefly
relied on for support. His style of tragedy, we have seen, varied with
his improved taste, perhaps with the change of manners. Although the
heroic drama, as we have described it at length in the preceding pages,
presented the strongest temptation to the exercise of argumentative
poetry in sounding rhyme, Dryden was at length contented to abandon it
for the more pure and chaste style of tragedy, which professes rather
the representation of human beings, than the creation of ideal
perfection, or fantastic and anomalous characters. The best of Dryden's
performances in this latter style, are unquestionably "Don Sebastian,"
and "All for Love." Of these, the former is in the poet's very best
manner; exhibiting dramatic persons, consisting of such bold and
impetuous characters as he delighted to draw, well contrasted, forcibly
marked, and engaged in an interesting succession of events. To many
tempers, the scene between Sebastian and Dorax must appear one of the
most moving that ever adorned the British stage. Of "All for Love," we
may say, that it is successful in a softer style of painting; and that
so far as sweet and beautiful versification, elegant language, and
occasional tenderness, can make amends for Dryden's deficiencies in
describing the delicacies of sentimental passion, they are to be found
in abundance in that piece. But on these, and on the poet's other
tragedies, we have enlarged in our preliminary notices prefixed to each

Dryden's comedies, besides being stained with the licence of the age (a
licence which he seems to use as much from necessity as choice), have,
generally speaking, a certain heaviness of character. There are many
flashes of wit; but the author has beaten his flint hard ere he struck
them out. It is almost essential to the success of a jest, that it
should at least seem to be extemporaneous. If we espy the joke at a
distance, nay, if without seeing it we have the least reason to suspect
we are travelling towards one, it is astonishing how the perverse
obstinacy of our nature delights to refuse it currency. When, therefore,
as is often the case in Dryden's comedies, two persons remain on the
stage for no obvious purpose but to say good things, it is no wonder
they receive but little thanks from an ungrateful audience. The
incidents, therefore, and the characters, ought to be comic; but actual
jests, or _bon mots_, should be rarely introduced, and then naturally,
easily, without an appearance of premeditation, and bearing a strict
conformity to the character of the person who utters them. Comic
situation Dryden did not greatly study; indeed I hardly recollect any,
unless in the closing scene of "The Spanish Friar," which indicates any
peculiar felicity of invention. For comic character, he is usually
contented to paint a generic representative of a certain class of men or
women; a Father Dominic, for example, or a Melantha, with all the
attributes of their calling and manners, strongly and divertingly
portrayed, but without any individuality of character. It is probable
that, with these deficiencies, he felt the truth of his own
acknowledgment, and that he was forced upon composing comedies to
gratify the taste of the age, while the bent of his genius was otherwise

In lyrical poetry, Dryden must be allowed to have no equal. "Alexander's
Feast" is sufficient to show his supremacy in that brilliant department.
In this exquisite production, he flung from him all the trappings with
which his contemporaries had embarrassed the ode. The language, lofty
and striking as the ideas are, is equally simple and harmonious; without
far-fetched allusions, or epithets, or metaphors, the story is told as
intelligibly as if it had been in the most humble prose. The change of
tone in the harp of Timotheus, regulates the measure and the melody, and
the language of every stanza. The hearer, while he is led on by the
successive changes, experiences almost the feelings of the Macedonian
and his peers; nor is the splendid poem disgraced by one word or line
unworthy of it, unless we join in the severe criticism of Dr. Johnson,
on the concluding stanzas. It is true, that the praise of St. Cecilia is
rather abruptly introduced as a conclusion to the account of the Feast
of Alexander; and it is also true, that the comparison,

"He raised a mortal to the sky,
She drew an angel down,"

is inaccurate, since the feat of Timotheus was metaphorical, and that of
Cecilia literal. But, while we stoop to such criticism, we seek for
blots in the sun.

Of Dryden's other pindarics, some, as the celebrated "Ode to the Memory
of Mrs. Killigrew," are mixed with the leaven of Cowley; others, like
the "_Threnodia Augustalis_," are occasionally flat and heavy. All
contain passages of brilliancy, and all are thrown into a versification,
melodious amidst its irregularity. We listen for the completion of
Dryden's stanza, as for the explication of a difficult passage in music;
and wild and lost as the sound appears, the ear is proportionally
gratified by the unexpected ease with which harmony is extracted from
discord and confusion.

The satirical powers of Dryden were of the highest order. He draws his
arrow to the head, and dismisses it straight upon his object of aim. In
this walk he wrought almost as great a reformation as upon versification
in general; as will plainly appear, if we consider, that the satire,
before Dryden's time, bore the same reference to "Absalom and
Achitophel," which an ode of Cowley bears to "Alexander's Feast." Butler
and his imitators had adopted a metaphysical satire, as the poets in the
earlier part of the century had created a metaphysical vein of serious
poetry.[9] Both required store of learning to supply the perpetual
expenditure of extraordinary and far-fetched illustration; the object of
both was to combine and hunt down the strangest and most fanciful
analogies; and both held the attention of the reader perpetually on the
stretch, to keep up with the meaning of the author. There can be no
doubt, that this metaphysical vein was much better fitted for the
burlesque than the sublime. Yet the perpetual scintillation of Butler's
wit is too dazzling to be delightful; and we can seldom read far in
"Hudibras" without feeling more fatigue than pleasure. His fancy is
employed with the profusion of a spendthrift, by whose eternal round of
banqueting his guests are at length rather wearied out than regaled.
Dryden was destined to correct this, among other errors of his age; to
show the difference between burlesque and satire; and to teach his
successors in that species of assault, rather to thrust than to flourish
with their weapon. For this purpose he avoided the unvaried and
unrelieved style of grotesque description and combination, which had
been fashionable since the satires of Cleveland and Butler. To render
the objects of his satire hateful and contemptible, he thought it
necessary to preserve the lighter shades of character, if not for the
purpose of softening the portrait, at least for that of preserving the
likeness. While Dryden seized, and dwelt upon, and aggravated, all the
evil features of his subject, he carefully retained just as much of its
laudable traits as preserved him from the charge of want of candour, and
fixed down the resemblance upon the party. And thus, instead of
unmeaning caricatures, he presents portraits which cannot be mistaken,
however unfavourable ideas they may convey of the originals. The
character of Shaftesbury, both as Achitophel, and as drawn in "The
Medal," bears peculiar witness to this assertion. While other court
poets endeavoured to turn the obnoxious statesman into ridicule on
account of his personal infirmities and extravagances, Dryden boldly
confers upon him all the praise for talent and for genius that his
friends could have claimed, and trusts to the force of his satirical
expression for working up even these admirable attributes with such a
mixture of evil propensities and dangerous qualities, that the whole
character shall appear dreadful, and even hateful, but not contemptible.
But where a character of less note, a Shadwell or a Settle, crossed his
path, the satirist did not lay himself under these restraints, but wrote
in the language of bitter irony and immeasurable contempt: even then,
however, we are less called on to admire the wit of the author, than the
force and energy of his poetical philippic. These are the verses which
are made by indignation, and, no more than theatrical scenes of real
passion, admit of refined and protracted turns of wit, or even the
lighter sallies of humour. These last ornaments are proper in that
Horatian satire, which rather ridicules the follies of the age, than
stigmatises the vices of individuals; but in this style Dryden has made
few essays. He entered the field as champion of a political party, or as
defender of his own reputation; discriminated his antagonists, and
applied the scourge with all the vehemence of Juvenal. As he has himself
said of that satirist, "his provocations were great, and he has revenged
them tragically." This is the more worthy of notice, as, in the Essay
on Satire, Dryden gives a decided preference to those nicer and more
delicate touches of satire, which consist in fine raillery. But whatever
was the opinion of his cooler moments, the poet's practice was dictated
by the furious party-spirit of the times, and the no less keen
stimulative of personal resentment. It is perhaps to be regretted, that
so much energy of thought, and so much force of expression, should have
been wasted in anatomising such criminals as Shadwell and Settle; yet we
cannot account the amber less precious, because they are grubs and flies
that are enclosed within it.

The "Fables" of Dryden are the best examples of his talents as a
narrative poet; those powers of composition, description, and narration,
which must have been called into exercise by the Epic Muse, had his fate
allowed him to enlist among her votaries. The "Knight's Tale," the
longest and most laboured of Chaucer's stories, possesses a degree of
regularity which might satisfy the most severe critic. It is true, that
the honour arising from thence must be assigned to the more ancient
bard, who had himself drawn his subject from an Italian model; but the
high and decided preference which Dryden has given to this story,
although somewhat censured by Trapp, enables us to judge how much the
poet held an accurate combination of parts, and coherence of narrative,
essentials of epic poetry.[10] That a classic scholar like Trapp should
think the plan of the "Knight's Tale" equal to that of the Iliad, is a
degree of candour not to be hoped for; but surely to an unprejudiced
reader, a story which exhausts in its conclusion all the interest which
it has excited in its progress, which, when terminated, leaves no
question to be asked, no personage undisposed of, and no curiosity
unsatisfied, is, abstractedly considered, more gratifying than the
history of a few weeks of a ten years' war, commencing long after the
siege had begun, and ending long before the city was taken. Of the other
tales, it can hardly be said that their texture is more ingenious or
closely woven than that of ordinary novels or fables: but in each of
them Dryden has displayed the superiority of his genius, in selecting
for amplification and ornament those passages most susceptible of
poetical description. The account of the procession of the Fairy
Chivalry in the "Flower and the Leaf;" the splendid description of the
champions who came to assist at the tournament in the "Knight's Tale;"
the account of the battle itself, its alternations and issue,--if they
cannot be called improvements on Chaucer, are nevertheless so spirited a
transfusion of his ideas into modern verse, as almost to claim the merit
of originality. Many passages might be shown in which this praise may be
carried still higher, and the merit of invention added to that of
imitation. Such is the description of the commencement of the tourney,
which is almost entirely original, and most of the ornaments in the
translations from Boccacio, whose prose fictions demanded more additions
from the poet than the exuberant imagery of Chaucer. To select instances
would be endless; but every reader of poetry has by heart the
description of Iphigenia asleep, nor are the lines in "Theodore and
Honoria,"[11] which describe the approach of the apparition, and its
effects upon animated and inanimated nature even before it becomes
visible, less eminent for beauties of the terrific order:

"While listening to the murmuring leaves he stood,
More than a mile immersed within the wood,
At once the wind was laid; the whispering sound
Was dumb; a rising earthquake rocked the ground;
With deeper brown the grove was overspread,
A sudden horror seized his giddy head,
And his ears tingled, and his colour fled,
Nature was in alarm; some danger nigh
Seemed threatened, though unseen to mortal eye."

It may be doubted, however, whether the simplicity of Boccacio's
narrative has not sometimes suffered by the additional decorations of
Dryden. The retort of Guiscard to Tancred's charge of ingratitude is
more sublime in the Italian original,[12] than as diluted by the English
poet into five hexameters. A worse fault occurs in the whole colouring
of Sigismonda's passion, to which Dryden has given a coarse and
indelicate character, which he did not derive from Boccacio. In like
manner, the plea used by Palamon in his prayer to Venus, is more nakedly
expressed by Dryden than by Chaucer. The former, indeed, would probably
have sheltered himself under the mantle of Lucretius; but he should have
recollected, that Palamon speaks the language of chivalry, and ought
not, to use an expression of Lord Herbert, to have spoken like a
_paillard_, but a _cavalier_. Indeed, we have before noticed it as the
most obvious and most degrading imperfection of Dryden's poetical
imagination, that he could not refine that passion, which, of all
others, is susceptible either of the purest refinement, or of admitting
the basest alloy. With Chaucer, Dryden's task was more easy than with
Boccacio. Barrenness was not the fault of the Father of English poetry;
and amid the profusion of images which he presented, his imitator had
only the task of rejecting or selecting. In the sublime description of
the temple of Mars, painted around with all the misfortunes ascribed to
the influence of his planet, it would be difficult to point out a single
idea, which is not found in the older poem. But Dryden has judiciously
omitted or softened some degrading and some disgusting circumstances; as
the "cook scalded in spite of his long ladle," the "swine devouring the
cradled infant," the "pickpurse," and other circumstances too grotesque
or ludicrous to harmonise with the dreadful group around them. Some
points, also, of sublimity, have escaped the modern poet. Such is the
appropriate and picturesque accompaniment of the statue of Mars:--

"A wolf stood before him at his feet,
With eyen red, and of a man he eat."[13]

In the dialogue, or argumentative parts of the poem, Dryden has
frequently improved on his original, while he falls something short of
him in simple description, or in pathetic effect. Thus, the quarrel
between Arcite and Palamon is wrought up with greater energy by Dryden
than Chaucer, particularly by the addition of the following lines,
describing the enmity of the captives against each other:--

"Now friends no more, nor walking hand in hand,
But when they met, they made a surly stand,
And glared like angry lions as they passed,
And wished that every look might be their last."

But the modern must yield the palm, despite the beauty of his
versification, to the description of Emily by Chaucer; and may be justly
accused of loading the dying speech of Arcite with conceits for which
his original gave no authority.[14]

When the story is of a light and ludicrous kind, as the Fable of the
Cock and Fox, and the Wife of Bath's Tale, Dryden displays all the
humorous expression of his satirical poetry, without its personality.
There is indeed a quaint Cervantic gravity in his mode of expressing
himself, that often glances forth, and enlivens what otherwise would be
mere dry narrative. Thus, he details certain things which passed,

"While Cynion was _endeavouring_ to be wise;"

the force of which single word contains both a ludicrous and appropriate
picture of the revolution which the force of love was gradually creating
in the mind of the poor clown. This tone of expression he perhaps
borrowed from Ariosto, and other poets of Italian chivalry, who are
wont, ever and anon, to raise the mask, and smile even at the romantic
tale they are themselves telling.

Leaving these desultory reflections on Dryden's powers of narrative, I
cannot but notice, that, from haste or negligence, he has sometimes
mistaken the sense of his author. Into the hands of the champions in
"The Flower and the Leaf," he has placed _bows_ instead of _boughs_,
because the word is in the original spelled _bowes_; and, having made
the error, he immediately devises an explanation of the device which he
had mistaken:--

"For bows the strength of brawny arms imply,
Emblems of valour, and of victory."

He has, in like manner, accused Chaucer of introducing Gallicisms into
the English language; not aware that French was the language of the
court of England not long before Chaucer's time, and, that, far from
introducing French phrases into the English tongue, the ancient bard was
successfully active in introducing the English as a fashionable dialect,
instead of the French, which had, before his time, been the only

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