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

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_VOL. I._



[Illustration: _M' John Dryden._]





The best-edited book in the English language is, according to Southey,
Wilkin's edition of Sir Thomas Browne. If Sir Walter Scott's "Dryden"
cannot challenge this highest position, it certainly deserves the credit
of being one of the best-edited books on a great scale in English, save
in one particular,--the revision of the text. In reading it long ago,
with no other object than to make acquaintance with Dryden; again, more
recently and more minutely, for the purpose of a course of lectures
which I was asked to deliver at the Royal Institution; and
again, more recently and more minutely still, for the purposes of a
monograph on the same subject in Mr. Morley's series of _English
Men of Letters_, I have had tolerably ample opportunities of
recognising its merits. It was therefore with pleasure that I found,
on being consulted by the publisher of these volumes as to a re-issue of
it, that Mr. Paterson was as averse as I was myself to any attempt to
efface or to mutilate Scott's work. Neither the number, the order, nor
the contents of Scott's eighteen volumes will be altered in any way. The
task which I propose to myself is a sufficiently modest one, that of
re-editing Scott's "Dryden," as--putting differences of ability out of
question--he might have re-edited it himself had he been alive to-day;
that is to say, to set right errors into which he fell either by
inadvertence or deficiency of information, to correct the text in
accordance with modern requirements, and to add the results of the
students of Dryden during the last three quarters of a century in matter
of text as well as of comment.

The first part of the plan requires no further remarks, and the last not
much. No literary work of Dryden's of any great importance has been
discovered since Scott's edition appeared. A few letters will have to be
added, though I am sorry to say that I cannot promise my readers the
satisfaction which Dryden students chiefly desire,--the satisfaction of
reading, or at least knowing the contents of, the Knole correspondence.
In reply to a request of mine, Lord Sackville has positively, though
very courteously, refused to lift the embargo which his predecessors
have placed on this, nor have my inquiries succeeded as yet in
discovering any hitherto unpublished letters, though the present
collection will for the first time present those which have been
published in a complete form. I think that it may not be uninteresting
for readers to have an opportunity of comparing with the undoubted work
two plays, "The Mistaken Husband," and "The Modish Lovers," which good
authorities have suspected to be possibly Dryden's. These will
accordingly be given in the last volume of the plays. A bibliography of
Dryden, and writers on Dryden, and a certain number of _pieces
justificatives_ of various kinds, will also be added, as well as
notes, and where the subject seems to demand them, appendices on points
of importance. These additional notes and appendices will be bracketed
and signed ED., Dryden's own notes, which are rare, will be indicated by
a D., and Scott's will stand without indication.

The principles upon which I have proceeded in re-editing the text
require somewhat fuller explanation. Dryden never superintended any
complete edition of his works, but on the other hand there is evidence
in his letters that he bestowed considerable pains on them when they
first passed through the press. The first editions have therefore in
every case been followed, though they have been corrected in case of
need by the later ones. But the adoption of this standard leaves
unsettled the problem of orthography, punctuation, etc. I have adopted a
solution of this which will not, I fear, be wholly agreeable to some of
my friends. Capital letters, apostrophes, and the like, will be looked
for in vain. It would, I need hardly say, have been much less trouble to
put copies of the original editions into the hands of the printers, to
bid them "follow copy," and to content myself with seeing that the
reprint was faithful. The result would have been, to a very small number
of professed students of English literature, an interesting example of
the changes which printers' spelling underwent in the last forty years
of the seventeenth century. But it would have been a nuisance and a
stumbling-block to the ordinary reader, in whose way it is certainly not
the business of the editor of a great English classic to throw stones of
offence. Where a writer has written in a distinctly archaic form of
language, as in the case of all English writers before the Renaissance,
adherence to the original orthography is necessary and right. Even in
the so-called Elizabethan age, where a certain archaism of phrase
survives, the appreciation of temporal and local colour may be helped by
such an adherence. But Dryden is in every sense a modern. His list of
obsolete words is insignificant, of archaic phrases more insignificant
still, of obsolete constructions almost a blank. If any journalist or
reviewer were to write his to-morrow's leader or his next week's article
in a style absolutely modelled on Dryden, no one would notice anything
strange in it, except perhaps that the English was a good deal better
than usual There can therefore be no possible reason for erecting an
artificial barrier between him and his readers of to-day, especially as
that barrier would be not only artificial but entirely arbitrary. I
shall however return to this point in some prefatory remarks to the

Another problem which presented itself was the question of retaining the
irregular stichometric division in some plays and passages which are not
in verse. Scott has in such case generally printed them in prose, and
with some hesitation I have, though not uniformly, followed him.

I have already received much help from divers persons, and I trust,
_dis faventibus_, to acknowledge this and more at the end of my
journey, in (to use a word for which a great writer of French fought
hard) a "postface." In a work of magnitude such as the present, which
can only be proceeded with _pedetentim_, the proverb about the
relations of beginner and finisher is peculiarly applicable. For the
present I shall confine myself to mentioning with the utmost
thankfulness the kindness of Mr. E.W. Gosse, who has placed at my
disposal an almost complete set of first editions of the plays and
poems. One word must be said as to the Life which fills this first
volume. Except in minor details, there is little to add to it. Any
biographer of Dryden who is not carried away by the desire to magnify
his office, must admit that Johnson's opening sentence as to the paucity
of materials is still applicable.

In conclusion, I have but to repeat that in this edition it is not my
ambition to put myself or my own writing forward, even to the extent
ordinarily possible to an editor. In particular, my plan excludes
indulgence in critical disquisitions, however tempting they may be. For
such I must refer my readers to the monograph already mentioned.
Occasionally where critical opinions of Scott's are advanced which seem
demonstrably erroneous or imperfect, something of this nature will be
found, but on the whole my object is to give the reader my author, and
not what I have to say about him. The office of [Greek: neokoros] is a
comparatively humble one in itself, but it is honourable enough when the
shrine is at once the work and the monument of two such masters of
English as Scott and Dryden.


LONDON, _July 8_, 1882.


[_Prefaced to Edition issued in_ 1808, _edited by Sir Walter

After the lapse of more than a century since the author's death, the
Works of Dryden are now, for the first time, presented to the public in
a complete and uniform edition. In collecting the pieces of one of our
most eminent English classics,--one who may claim at least the third
place in that honoured list, and who has given proofs of greater
versatility of talent than either Shakespeare or Milton, though justly
placed inferior to them in their peculiar provinces,--the Editor did not
feel himself entitled to reject any part of his writings; even of those
which reflect little honour on the age, by whose taste they were
dictated. Had a selection been permitted, he would have excluded several
of the Comedies, and some part of the Translations: but this is a
liberty which has not lately been indulged to editors of classical
poetry. Literary history is an important step in that of man himself;
and the unseductive coarseness of Dryden is rather a beacon than a

In commencing this task, the Editor had hopes of friendly assistance,
which might have rendered his toil more easy, and the result more
accurate. Deprived of this by a concurrence of unlucky circumstances, he
has both to dread the imperfection of his labours, and the consequence
of perhaps an over-zeal to render his edition complete. In the first
respect, although he has many thanks to return for information readily
afforded, it has sometimes been received after the irrevocable
operations of the printer had taken place.[1] On the second point, he
may have been too lavish in historical notes, and entered too deeply
into the secret history of the persons and times to which Dryden's
satirical poems refer. But he has endeavoured to avail himself of all
information, so soon as communicated, whether corrective or
corroborative of his prior opinions; and the wish, not only to render
intelligible, blanks, allusions, and feigned names, but to present, if
possible, the very spirit and political character of Dryden's
contemporaries, must be the excuse for intruding a few pages of
political history and personal anecdote; which, after all, they, whose
memory does not require such refreshment, may easily dispense with
reading. In this last part of his task, the Editor has been greatly
assisted by free access to a valuable collection of the fugitive pieces
of the reigns of Charles II., James II., William III., and Queen Anne.
This curious collection was made by Narcissus Luttrell, Esq., under
whose name the Editor usually quotes it The industrious collector seems
to have bought every poetical tract, of whatever merit, which was hawked
through the streets in his time, marking carefully the price and date of
the purchase. His collection contains the earliest editions of many of
our most excellent poems, bound up, according to the order of time, with
the lowest trash of Grub Street. It was dispersed on Mr. Luttrell's
death; but a number of the volumes, referring chiefly to the latter part
of Charles the Second's reign, have fortunately become the property of
Mr. James Bindley of Somerset Place, who, with the utmost urbanity,
permitted the Editor the unlimited use of these, and other literary
curiosities in his valuable library.--It is so much a matter of course,
with every adventurer in the field of antiquities, to acknowledge the
liberality and kindness of Mr. Richard Heber, that the public would
probably be surprised had his extensive literary treasures escaped
contribution on this occasion, particularly as it contains several
additional volumes of the Luttrell collection. To both gentlemen the
Editor has to offer his public thanks; nor will he be tempted to dilate
further on the liberality of the one, and the tried friendship of the
other. It is possible, that these researches may, by their very nature,
have in some degree warped the Editor's taste, and induced him to
consider that as curious which was only scarce, and to reprint
quotations, from the adversaries or contemporaries of Dryden, of a
length more than sufficient to satisfy the reader of their unworthiness.
But, as the painter places a human figure, to afford the means of
computing the elevation of the principal object in his landscape, it
seemed that the giant-height of Dryden, above the poets of his day,
might be best ascertained by extracts from those who judged themselves,
and were sometimes deemed by others, his equals, or his superiors. For
the same reason, there are thrown into the Appendix a few indifferent
verses to the poet's memory; which, while they show how much his loss
was felt, point out, at the same time, the impossibility of supplying

In the Biographical Memoir, it would have been hard to exact, that the
Editor should rival the criticism of Johnson, or produce facts which had
escaped the accuracy of Malone. While, however, he has availed himself
of the labours of both, particularly of the latter, whose industry has
removed the cloud which so long hung over the events of Dryden's life,
he has endeavoured to take a different and more enlarged view of the
subject than that which his predecessors have presented. The general
critical view of Dryden's works being sketched by Johnson with
unequalled felicity, and the incidents of his life accurately discussed
and ascertained by Malone, something seemed to remain for him who should
consider these literary productions in their succession, as actuated by,
and operating upon, the taste of an age, where they had so predominant
influence; and who might, at the same time, connect the life of Dryden
with the history of his publications, without losing sight of the fate
and character of the individual. How far this end has been attained, is
not for the Editor to guess, especially when, as usual at the close of a
work, he finds he is possessed of double the information he had when he
commenced it. The kindness of Mr. Octavius Gilchrist, who undertook a
journey to Northamptonshire to examine the present state of Rushton,
where Dryden often lived, and of Mr. Finlay of Glasgow, who favoured the
Editor with the use of some original editions, falls here to be
gratefully acknowledged.

In collecting the poetry of Dryden, some hymns translated from the
service of the Catholic Church were recovered, by the favour of Captain
MacDonogh of the Inverness Militia.[2] As the body of the work was then
printed off, they were inserted in the Life of the Author; but should a
second impression of this edition be required by the public, they shall
be transferred to their proper place. To the Letters of Dryden,
published in Mr. Malone's edition of his prose works, the Editor has
been enabled to add one article, by the favour of Mrs. White of
Bownanhall, Gloucestershire. Those preserved at Knowles were examined at
the request of a noble friend, and the contents appeared unfit for
publication. Dryden's translations of Fresnoy's Art of Painting, and of
the Life of Xavier, are inserted without abridgment, for reasons which
are elsewhere alleged.[3] From the version of Maimbourg's "History of
the League," there is an extract given, which may be advantageously read
along with the Duke of Guise, and the Vindication of that play. The
prefaces and dedications are, of course, prefixed to the pieces to which
they belong; but those who mean to study them with reference to
theatrical criticism, will do well to follow the order recommended by
Mr. Malone.[4]

Several pieces published in Derrick's edition of Dryden's poetry, being
obviously spurious, are here published separately from his authentic
poetry, and with a suitable note of suspicion prefixed to each. They
might indeed have been altogether discarded without diminishing the
value of the work. Some account might be here given of the various
editions of Dryden's poems; but notices of this kind have been liberally
scattered through the Life and preliminary matter.

Upon the whole, it is hoped, that as the following is the first complete
edition of the Works of Dryden, it will be found, in accuracy of text
and copiousness of illustration, not altogether unworthy of the time,
labour, and expense which have been ungrudgingly bestowed upon an object
so important to English literature.


[1] The octavo edition of the "_Annus Mirabilis_" did not fall into my
hands till the volume containing it was printed off. It contains two
important variations: as, stanza 4, _the year_, read THEIR _year_;
stanza 53, _their main_, read MEN; both of which the reader is requested
to correct. Also an _erratum_ in verse 104, line 2, where the word
_fortune_ should be VIRTUE.

[2] By the hands of Mrs. Jackson, who has honoured me with a note,
stating, that they are mentioned in Butler's "Tour through Italy;" that
after Butler's death, the translations passed into the hands of the
celebrated Dr. Alban, whence they were transferred to those of the
present possessor.

[3] Vol. i. p. 283; vol. xvii.

[4] Which is, the Essay of Dramatic Poesy, the Defence of that Essay,
the Preface to the Mock Astrologer, the Essay on Heroic Plays, the
Defence of the Epilogue to the Second Part of the Conquest of Granada,
the Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy, and the Answer to Rymer.




The Life of John Dryden

SECT. I. Preliminary remarks on the Poetry of England before the Civil
Wars--The Life of Dryden from his Birth till the Restoration--His Early
Poems, including the Annus Mirabilis

SECT. II. Revival of the Drama at the Restoration--Heroic Plays--
Comedies of Intrigue--Commencement of Dryden's Dramatic Career--The Wild
Gallant--Rival Ladies--Indian Queen and Emperor--Dryden's Marriage--
Essay on Dramatic Poetry, and subsequent Controversy with Sir Robert
Howard--The Maiden Queen--The Tempest--Sir Martin Mar-all--The Mock
Astrologer--The Royal Martyr--The two Parts of the Conquest of Granada--
Dryden's situation at this period

SECT. III. Heroic Plays--The Rehearsal--Marriage a la Mode--The
Assignation--Controversy with Clifford--with Leigh--with Ravenscroft--
Massacre of Amboyna--State of Innocence

SECT. IV. Dryden's controversy with Settle--with Rochester--He is
assaulted in Rose Street--Aureng-Zebe--Dryden meditates an Epic Poem--
All for Love--Limberham--Oedipus--Troilus and Cressida--The Spanish
Friar--Dryden supposed to be in opposition to the Court

SECT. V. Dryden engages in Politics--Absalom and Achitophel, Part First
--The Medal--MacFlecknoe--Absalom and Achitophel, Part Second--The Duke
of Guise

SECT. VI. Threnodia Augustalis--Albion and Albanius--Dryden becomes a
Catholic--The Controversy of Dryden with Stillingfleet--The Hind and
Panther--Life of St. Francis Xavier--Consequences of the Revolution to
Dryden--Don Sebastian--King Arthur--Cleomenes--Love Triumphant

SECT. VII. State of Dryden's Connections in Society after the
Revolution--Juvenal and Persius--Smaller Pieces--Eleanora--Third
Miscellany--Virgil--Ode to St. Cecilia--Dispute with Milbourne--with
Blackmore--Fables--The Author's Death and Funeral--His Private
Character--Notices of his Family

SECT. VIII. 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




* * * * *


_Preliminary Remarks on the Poetry of England before the Civil Wars--
The Life of Dryden from his Birth till the Restoration--His early Poems,
including the "Annus Mirabilis."_

The Life of Dryden may be said to comprehend a history of the Literature
of England, and its changes, during nearly half a century. While his
great contemporary Milton was in silence and secrecy laying the
foundation of that immortal fame, which no poet has so highly deserved
Dryden's labours were ever in the eye of the public; and he maintained,
from the time of the Restoration till his death, in 1700, a decided and
acknowledged superiority over all the poets of his age. As he wrote from
necessity, he was obliged to pay a certain deference to the public
opinion; for he, whose bread depends upon the success of his volume, is
compelled to study popularity; but, on the other hand, his better
judgment was often directed to improve that of his readers; so that he
alternately influenced and stooped to the national taste of the day. If,
therefore, we would know the gradual changes which took place in our
poetry during the above period, we have only to consult the writings of
an author, who produced yearly some new performance allowed to be most
excellent in the particular style which was fashionable for the time. It
is the object of this memoir to connect, with the account of Dryden's
life and publications such a general view of the literature of the time,
as may enable the reader to estimate how far the age was indebted to the
poet, and how far the poet was influenced by the taste and manners of
the age. A few preliminary remarks on the literature of the earlier part
of the seventeenth century will form a necessary introduction to this
biographical memoir.

[1]When James I. ascended the throne of England he came to rule a court
and people, as much distinguished for literature as for commerce and
arms. Shakespeare was in the zenith of his reputation, and England
possessed other poets inferior to Shakespeare alone; or, indeed, the
higher order of whose plays may claim to be ranked above the inferior
dramas ascribed to him. Among these we may reckon Massinger, who
approached to Shakespeare in dignity; Beaumont and Fletcher, who
surpassed him in drawing female characters, and those of polite and
courtly life; and Jonson, who attempted to supply, by depth of learning,
and laboured accuracy of character, the want of that flow of
imagination, which nature had denied to him. Others, who flourished in
the reign of James and his son, though little known to the general
readers of the present age even by name, had a just claim to be
distinguished from the common herd of authors. Ford, Webster, Marston,
Brome, Shirley, even Chapman and Decker, added lustre to the stage for
which they wrote. The drama, it is true, was the branch of poetry most
successfully cultivated; for it afforded the most ready appeal to the
public taste. The number of theatres then open in all parts of the city,
secured to the adventurous poet the means of having his performance
represented upon one stage or other; and he was neither tired nor
disgusted by the difficulties, and disagreeable observances, which must
now be necessarily undergone by every candidate for dramatic laurels.[2]
But, although during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I, the
stage seems to have afforded the principal employment of the poets,
there wanted not many, who cultivated, with success, the other
departments of Parnassus. It is only necessary to name Spenser, whose
magic tale continues to interest us, in despite of the languor of a
continued allegory; Drayton, who, though less known, possesses perhaps
equal powers of poetry; Beaumont the elder, whose poem on Bosworth Field
carries us back to the days of the Plantagenets; Fairfax, the translator
of Tasso, the melody of whose numbers became the model of Waller;
besides many others, who ornamented this era of British literature.

Notwithstanding the splendour of these great names, it must be
confessed, that one common fault, in a greater or less degree, pervaded
the most admired poetry of Queen Elizabeth's age. This was the fatal
propensity to _false wit_; to substitute, namely, strange and
unexpected connections of sound, or of idea, for real humour, and even
for the effusions of the stronger passions It seems likely that this
fashion arose at court, a sphere in which its denizens never think they
move with due lustre, until they have adopted a form of expression, as
well as a system of manners, different from that which is proper to
mankind at large. In Elizabeth's reign, the court language was formed on
the plan of one Lillie, a pedantic courtier, who wrote a book, entitled
"Euphues and his England, or the Anatomy of Wit;"[3] which quality he
makes to consist in the indulgence of every monstrous and overstrained
conceit, that can be engendered by a strong memory and a heated brain,
applied to the absurd purpose of hatching unnatural conceits.[4] It
appears, that this fantastical person had a considerable share in
determining the false taste of his age, which soon became so general,
that the tares which sprung from it are to be found even among the
choicest of the wheat. Shakespeare himself affords us too many instances
of this fashionable heresy in wit; and he, who could create new worlds
out of his own imagination descended to low, and often ill-timed puns
and quibbles. This was not an evil to be cured by the accession of our
Scottish James, whose qualifications as a punster were at least equal to
his boasted _king-craft._[5] The false taste, which had been
gaining ground even in the reign of Elizabeth, now overflowed the whole
kingdom with the impetuosity of a land-flood. These outrages upon
language were committed without regard to time and place. They were held
good arguments at the bar, though Bacon sat on the woolsack; and
eloquence irresistible by the most hardened sinner, when King or Corbet
were in the pulpit.[6] Where grave and learned professions set the
example, the poets, it will readily be believed, ran headlong into an
error, for which they could plead such respectable example. The
affectation "of the word" and "of the letter," for alliteration was
almost as fashionable as punning, seemed, in some degree, to bring back
English composition to the barbarous rules of the ancient Anglo-Saxons,
the merit of whose poems consisted, not in the ideas, but in the quaint
arrangement of the words, and the regular recurrence of some favourite
sound or letter.

This peculiar taste for twisting and playing upon words, instead of
applying them to their natural and proper use, was combined with the
similar extravagance of those whom Dr. Johnson has entitled Metaphysical
Poets. This class of authors used the same violence towards images and
ideas which had formerly been applied to words; in truth, the two styles
were often combined and, even when separate, had a kindred alliance with
each other. It is the business of the punster to discover and yoke
together two words, which, while they have some resemblance in sound,
the more exact the better, convey a totally different signification. The
metaphysical poet, on the other hand, piqued himself in discovering
hidden resemblances between ideas apparently the most dissimilar, and in
combining by some violent and compelled association, illustrations and
allusions utterly foreign from each other. Thus did the metaphysical
poet resemble the quibbler exercising precisely the same tyranny over
ideas, which the latter practised upon sounds only.

Jonson gave an early example of metaphysical poetry; indeed, it was the
natural resource of a mind amply stored with learning, gifted with a
tenacious memory and the power of constant labour, but to which was
denied that vivid perception of what is naturally beautiful, and that
happiness of expression, which at once conveys to the reader the idea of
the poet These latter qualities unite in many passages of Shakespeare,
of which the reader at once acknowledges the beauty, the justice, and
the simplicity. But such Jonson was unequal to produce; and he
substituted the strange, forced, and most unnatural though ingenious
analogies, which were afterwards copied by Donne and Cowley.[7] In
reading Shakespeare, we often meet passages so congenial to our nature
and feelings, that, beautiful as they are, we can hardly help wondering
they did not occur to ourselves; in studying Jonson, we have often to
marvel how his conceptions could have occurred to any human being. The
one is like an ancient statue, the beauty of which, springing from the
exactness of proportion does not always strike at first sight, but rises
upon us as we bestow time in considering it; the other is the
representation of a monster, which is at first only surprising, and
ludicrous or disgusting ever after. When the taste for simplicity
however, is once destroyed, it is long ere a nation recovers it; and the
metaphysical poets seem to have retained possession of the public favour
from the reign of James I. till the beginning of the Civil Wars silenced
the muses. The universities were perhaps to blame during this period of
usurpation; for which it may be admitted in excuse, that the
metaphysical poetry could only be practised by men whose minds were
deeply stored with learning, and who could boldly draw upon a large fund
of acquired knowledge for supplying the expenditure of far-fetched and
extravagant images, which their compositions required. The book of
Nature is before all men; but when her limits are to be overstepped, the
acquirement of adventitious knowledge becomes of paramount necessity;
and it was but natural that Cambridge and Oxford should prize a style of
poetry, to which depth of learning was absolutely indispensable.

I have stated, that the metaphysical poetry was fashionable during the
early part of Charles the First's reign. It is true, that Milton
descended to upbraid that unfortunate prince, that the chosen companion
of his private hours was one _William Shakespeare, a player_; but
Charles admitted less sacred poets to share his partiality. Ben Jonson
supplied his court with masques, and his pageants with verses; and,
notwithstanding an ill-natured story, shared no inconsiderable portion
of his bounty.[8] Donne, a leader among the metaphysical poets, with
whom King James had punned and quibbled in person.[9] shared, in a
remarkable degree, the good graces of Charles I., who may therefore be
supposed no enemy to his vein of poetry, although neither his sincere
piety nor his sacred office restrained him from fantastic indulgence in
extravagant conceit, even upon the most solemn themes which can be
selected for poetry.[10] Cowley, who with the learning and acuteness of
Donne, possessed the more poetical qualities of a fertile imagination,
and frequent happiness of expression, and who claims the highest place
of all who ever plied the unprofitable trade of combining dissimilar and
repugnant ideas, was not indeed known to the king during his prosperity;
but his talents recommended him at the military court of Oxford, and the
[Transcriber's note: word missing here in the original] ingenious poet
of the metaphysical class enjoyed the applause of Charles before he
shared the exile of his consort Henrietta. Cleveland also was honoured
with the early notice of Charles;[11] one of the most distinguished
metaphysical bards, who afterwards exerted his talents of wit and satire
upon the royal side, and strained his imagination for extravagant
invective against the Scottish army, who sold their king, and the
parliament leaders, who bought him. All these, and others unnecessary to
mention, were read and respected at court; being esteemed by their
contemporaries, and doubtless believing themselves the wonder of their
own, and the pattern of succeeding ages; and however much they
[Transcriber's note: fragment of word only in original, presume "might"]
differ from each other in parts and genius, they sought the same road to
poetical fame, by starting the most unnatural images which their
imaginations could conceive, or by hunting more common allusions through
the most minute and circumstantial particulars and ramifications.

Yet, though during the age of Charles I. the metaphysical poets enjoyed
the larger proportion of public applause, authors were not wanting who
sought other modes of distinguishing themselves. Milton, who must not be
named in the same paragraph with others, although he had not yet
meditated the sublime work which was to carry his name to immortality,
disdained, even in his lesser compositions, the preposterous conceits
and learned absurdities, by which his contemporaries acquired
distinction. Some of his slighter academic prolusions are, indeed,
tinged with the prevailing taste of his age, or, perhaps, were written
in ridicule of it; but no circumstance in his life is more remarkable,
than that "Comus," the "Monody on Lycidas," the "Allegro and Penseroso,"
and the "Hymn on the Nativity," are unpolluted by the metaphysical
jargon and affected language which the age esteemed indispensable to
poetry. This refusal to bend to an evil so prevailing, and which held
out so many temptations to a youth of learning and genius, can only be
ascribed to the natural chastity of Milton's taste, improved by an
earnest and eager study of the purest models of antiquity.

But besides Milton, who stood aloof and alone, there was a race of
lesser poets, who endeavoured to glean the refuse of the applause reaped
by Donne, Cowley, and their followers, by adopting ornaments which the
latter had neglected, perhaps because they could be attained without
much labour or abstruse learning. The metaphysical poets, in their
slip-shod pindarics, had totally despised, not only smoothness and
elegance but the common rhythm of versification. Many and long passages
may be read without perceiving the least difference between them and
barbarous jingling, ill-regulated prose; and in appearance, though the
lines be divided into unequal lengths, the eye and ear acknowledge
little difference between them and the inscription on a tomb-stone. In a
word, not only harmony of numbers, but numbers themselves, were
altogether neglected; or if an author so far respected ancient practice
as to make lines which could be scanned like verse, he had done his
part, and was perfectly indifferent, although they sounded like
prose.[12] But as melody will be always acceptable to the ear, some
poets chose this neglected road to fame, and gained a portion of public
favour, by attending to the laws of harmony, which their rivals had
discarded. Waller and Denham were the first who thus distinguished
themselves; but, as Johnson happily remarks, what was acquired by
Denham, was inherited by Waller. Something there was in the situation of
both these authors, which led them to depart from what was then the
beaten path of composition. They were men of rank, wealth, and fashion,
and had experienced all the interruptions to deep study, with which such
elevated station is naturally attended. It was in vain for Waller, a
wit, a courtier, and a politician; or for Denham, who was only
distinguished at the university as a dreaming, dissipated gambler, to
attempt to rival the metaphysical subtleties of Donne and Cowley, who
had spent serious and sequestered lives in acquiring the knowledge and
learning which they squandered in their poetry. Necessity, therefore and
perhaps a dawning of more simple taste, impelled these courtly poets to
seek another and more natural mode of pleasing. The melody of verse was
a province unoccupied, and Waller, forming his rhythm upon the
modulation of Fairfax, and other poets of the maiden reign, exhibited in
his very first poem[13] striking marks of attention to the suavity of
numbers. Denham, in his dedication to Charles II., informs us, that the
indulgence of his poetical vein had drawn the notice, although
accompanied with the gentle censure, of Charles I., when, in 1647, he
obtained access to his person by the intercession of Hugh Peters.
Suckling, whom Dryden has termed "a sprightly wit, and a courtly
writer," may be added to the list of smooth and easy poets of the
period, and had the same motives as Denham and Waller for attaching
himself to that style of composition. He was allowed to have the
peculiar art of making whatever he did become him; and it cannot be
doubted, that his light and airy style of ballads and sonnets had many
admirers. Upon the whole, this class of poets, although they hardly
divided the popular favour with the others, were also noticed and
applauded. Thus the poets of the earlier part of the seventeenth century
may be divided into one class, who sacrificed both sense and sound to
the exercise of extravagant, though ingenious, associations of imagery;
and a second, who, aiming to distinguish themselves by melody of
versification, were satisfied with light and trivial subjects, and too
often contented with attaining smoothness of measure, neglected the more
essential qualities of poetry. The intervention of the civil wars
greatly interrupted the study of poetry. The national attention was
called to other objects, and those who, in the former peaceful reigns,
would have perhaps distinguished themselves as poets and dramatists,
were now struggling for fame in the field, or declaiming for power in
the senate. The manners of the prevailing party, their fanatical
detestation of everything like elegant or literary amusement, their
affected horror at stage representations, which at once silenced the
theatres, and their contempt for profane learning, which degraded the
universities, all operated, during the civil wars and succeeding
usurpation, to check the pursuits of the poet, by withdrawing that
public approbation, which is the best, and often the sole, reward of his
labour. There was, at this time, a sort of interregnum in the public
taste, as well as in its government. The same poets were no doubt alive
who had distinguished themselves at the court of Charles: but Cowley and
Denham were exiled with their sovereign; Waller was awed into silence,
by the rigour of the puritanic spirit; and even the muse of Milton was
scared from him by the clamour of religious and political controversy,
and only returned, like a sincere friend, to cheer the adversity of one
who had neglected her during his career of worldly importance.[14]

During this period, the most unfavourable to literature which had
occurred for at least two centuries, Dryden, the subject of this memoir,
was gradually and silently imbibing those stores of learning, and
cultivating that fancy which was to do so much to further the
reformation of taste and poetry. It is now time to state his descent and

The name of Dryden is local, and probably originated in the north of
England, where, as well as in the neighbouring counties of Scotland, it
frequently occurs, though it is not now borne by any person of
distinction. David Driden, or Dryden, married the daughter of William
Nicholson of Staff-hill, in the county of Cumberland and was the
great-great-grandfather of our poet. John Dryden, eldest son of David,
settled in Northamptonshire, where he acquired the estate of
Canons-Ashby, by marriage with Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir
John Cope of that county. Wood says, that John Dryden was by profession
a schoolmaster, and honoured with the friendship of the great Erasmus,
who stood godfather to one of his sons.[15] He appears, from some
passages in his will, to have entertained the puritanical principles,
which, we shall presently find, descended to his family.[16] Erasmus
Driden, his eldest son, succeeded to the estate of Canons-Ashby, was
high-sheriff of Northamptonshire in the fortieth year of Queen
Elizabeth, and was created a knight baronet in the seventeenth of King
James I. Sir Erasmus married Frances, second daughter and co-heiress of
William Wilkes of Hodnell, in Warwickshire by whom he had three sons,
first, Sir John Driden, his successor in the title and estate of
Canons-Ashby; second, William Driden of Farndon, in Northamptonshire;
third, Erasmus Driden of Tichmarsh, in the same county. The last of
these was the father of the poet.

Erasmus Driden married Mary, the daughter of the reverend Henry
Pickering, younger son of Sir Gilbert Pickering, a person who, though in
considerable favour with James I., was a zealous puritan, and so noted
for opposition to the Catholics that the conspirators in the Gunpowder
Treason, his own brother-in-law being one of the number,[17] had
resolved upon his individual murder, as an episode to the main plot;
determined so to conduct it, as to throw the suspicion of the
destruction of the Parliament upon the puritans.[18] These principles,
we shall soon see, became hereditary in the family of Pickering. Mr.
Malone's industry has collected little concerning our author's maternal
grandfather, excepting, that he was born in 1584; named minister of
Oldwinkle All-Saints in 1647; and died in 1657. From the time when he
attained this preferment, it is highly probable, that he had been
recommended to it by the puritanical tenets which he doubtless held in
common with the rest of his family.

Of the poet's father, Erasmus, we know even less than of his other
relations. He acted as a justice of peace during the usurpation, and was
the father of no less than fourteen children; four sons and ten
daughters. The sons were John, Erasmus, Henry, and James; the daughters,
Agnes, Rose, Lucy, Mary, Martha, Elizabeth, Hester, Hannah, Abigail,
Frances. Such anecdotes concerning them as my predecessors have
recovered, may be found in the note.[19]

JOHN DRYDEN, the subject of this memoir, was born at the parsonage house
of Oldwinkle All-Saints, on or about the 9th day of August 1631.[20] The
village then belonged to the family of Exeter, as we are informed by the
poet himself in the postscript to his Virgil. That his family were
Puritans may readily be admitted; but that they were Anabaptists,
although confidently asserted by some of our author's political or
poetical antagonists, appears altogether improbable. Notwithstanding,
therefore, the sarcasm of the Duke of Buckingham, the register of
Oldwinkle All-Saints parish, had it been in existence, would probably
have contained the record of our poet's baptism.[21]

Dryden seems to have received the rudiments of his education at
Tichmarsh,[22] and was admitted a king's scholar at Westminster,[23]
under the tuition of the celebrated Dr. Bushby,[24] for whom he ever
afterwards entertained the most sincere veneration. One of his letters
to his old master is addressed, "Honoured Sir," and couched in terms of
respect, and even humility, fully sufficient for the occasion. Another
written by Dryden, when his feelings were considerably irritated by a
supposed injustice done to his son, is nevertheless qualified by great
personal deference to his old preceptor. It may be readily supposed,
that such a scholar, under so able a teacher, must have made rapid
progress in classical learning. The bent of the juvenile poet, even at
this early period, distinguished itself. He translated the third satire
of Persius, as a Thursday night's task, and executed many other
exercises of the same nature, in English verse, none of which are now in
existence.[25] During the last year of his residence at Westminster, the
death of Henry Lord Hastings, a young nobleman of great learning, and
much beloved, called forth no less than ninety-eight elegies, one of
which was written by our poet, then about eighteen years old. They were
published in 1650, under the title of "_Lachrymae Musarum._"

Dryden, having obtained a Westminster scholarship was admitted to
Trinity College, Cambridge on the 11th May 1650, his tutor being the
reverend John Templer, M.A., a man of some learning, who wrote a Latin
Treatise in confutation of Hobbes, and a few theological tracts and
single sermons. While at college, our author's conduct seems not to have
been uniformly regular. He was subjected to slight punishment for
contumacy to the vice-master,[26] and seems, according to the statement
of an obscure libeller, to have been engaged in some public and
notorious dispute with a nobleman's son, probably on account of the
indulgence of his turn for satire.[27] He took, however, the degree of
Bachelor, in January 1653-4, but neither became Master of Arts,[28] nor
a fellow of the university and certainly never retained for it much of
that veneration usually paid by an English scholar to his Alma Mater. He
often celebrates Oxford, but only mentions Cambridge as the contrast of
the sister university in point of taste and learning:

"Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
Than his own mother-university:
Thebes did his green unknowing youth engage,
He chooses Athens in his riper age."[29]

A preference so uncommon, in one who had studied at Cambridge, probably
originated in some cause of disgust, which we may now search for in

In June 1654, the death of his father, Erasmus Dryden, proved a
temporary interruption to our author's studies. He left the university,
on this occasion, to take possession of his inheritance, consisting of
two-thirds of a small estate near Blakesley, in Northamptonshire, worth,
in all, about sixty pounds a year. The other third part of this small
property was bequeathed to his mother during her life, and the property
reverted to the poet after her death in 1676. With this little patrimony
our author returned to Cambridge, where he continued until the middle of
the year 1657.

Although Dryden's residence at the university was prolonged to the
unusual space of nearly seven years, we do not find that he
distinguished himself during that time by any poetical prolusions
excepting a few lines prefixed to a work, entitled, "Sion and Parnassus;
or Epigrams on several Texts of the Old and New Testament," published in
1650, by John Hoddesdon.[30] Mr. Malone conjectures that our poet would
have contributed to the academic collection of verses, entitled, "Oliva
Pacis," and published in 1654, on the peace between England and Holland,
had not his father's death interfered at that period. It is probable, we
lose but little by the disappearance of any occasional verses which may
have been produced by Dryden at this time. The elegy on Lord Hastings,
the lines prefixed to "Sion and Parnassus," and some complimentary
stanzas which occur in a letter to his cousin Honor Driden,[31] would
have been enough to assure us, even without his own testimony, that
Cowley was the darling of his youth; and that he imitated his points of
wit, and quirks of epigram, with a similar contempt for the propriety of
their application. From these poems, we learn enough to be grateful,
that Dryden was born at a later period in his century; for had not the
road to fame been altered in consequence of the Restoration, his
extensive information and acute ingenuity would probably have betrayed
the author of the "Ode to St. Cecilia," and the father of English
poetical harmony, into rivalling the metaphysical pindarics of Donne and

The verses, to which we allude, display their sublety [Transcriber's
note: sic] of thought, their puerile extravagance of conceit, and that
structure of verse, which, as the poet himself says of Holyday's
translations, has nothing of verse in it except the worst part of it--
the rhyme, and that far from being unexceptionable The following lines,
in which the poet describes the death of Lord Hastings by the small-pox,
will be probably admitted as a justification of this censure:

"Was there no milder way but the small-pox;
The very filthiness of Pandora's box?
So many spots, like naeves, our Venus soil?
One jewel set off with so many a foil?
Blisters with pride swelled, which through 's flesh did sprout,
Like rose-buds, stuck i'the lily-skin about.
Each little pimple had a tear in it,
To wail the fault its rising did commit,
Which, rebel-like, with its own lord at strife,
Thus made an insurrection 'gainst his life.
Or were these gems sent to adorn his skin,
The cabinet of a richer soul within?
No comet need foretel his change drew on,
Whose corpse might seem a constellation."

This is exactly in the tone of Bishop Corbet's invective against the
same disease:

"Oh thou deformed unwoman-like disease,
Thou plough'st up flesh and blood, and there sow'st pease;
And leav'st such prints on beauty that dost come,
As clouted shoon do on a floor of loam.
Thou that of faces honey-combs dost make,
And of two breasts two cullenders, forsake
Thy deadly trade; now thou art rich, give o'er,
And let our curses call thee forth no more."[32]

After leaving the university, our author entered the world, supported by
friends, from whose character, principles, and situation, it might have
been prophesied, with probability, that his success in life, and his
literary reputation, would have been exactly the reverse of what they
actually proved. Sir Gilbert Pickering was cousin-german to the poet,
and also to his mother; thus standing related to Dryden in a double
connection.[33] This gentleman was a staunch puritan, and having set out
as a reformer, ended by being a regicide, and an abettor of the tyranny
of Cromwell. He was one of the judges of the unfortunate Charles; and
though he did not sit in that bloody court upon the last and fatal day,
yet he seems to have concurred in the most violent measures of the
unconscientious men who did so. He had been one of the parliamentary
counsellors of state, and hesitated not to be numbered among the godly
and discreet persons who assisted Cromwell as a privy council. Moreover
he was lord chamberlain of the Protector's court, and received the
honour of his mock peerage.

The patronage of such a person was more likely to have elevated Dryden
to the temporal greatness and wealth acquired by the sequestrators and
committee-men of that oppressive time, than to have aided him in
attaining the summits of Parnassus. For, according to the slight records
which Mr. Malone has recovered concerning Sir Gilbert Pickering's
character, it would seem, that, to the hard, precise, fanatical contempt
of every illumination, save the inward light, which he derived from his
sect, he added the properties of a fiery temper, and a rude and savage
address.[34] In what capacity Dryden lived with his kinsman, or to what
line of life circumstances seemed to destine the future poet, we are
left at liberty to conjecture. Shadwell, the virulent antagonist of our
author, has called him Sir Gilbert Pickering's clerk; and it is indeed
highly probable that he was employed as his amanuensis, or secretary.

The next step of advancement you began
Was being clerk to Noll's lord chamberlain,
A sequestrator and committee-man.

_The Medal of John Bayes_.

But I cannot, with Mr. Malone, interpret the same passage, by supposing
the third line of the triplet to apply to Dryden. Had he been actually a
member of a committee of sequestration, that circumstance would never
have remained in the dubious obscurity of Shadwell's poetry; it would
have been as often echoed and re-echoed as every other incident of the
poet's life which was capable of bearing an unfavourable interpretation.
I incline therefore to believe, that the terms _sequestrator_ and
_committee-man_ apply not to the poet, but to his patron Sir
Gilbert, to whom their propriety cannot be doubted.

Sir Gilbert Pickering was not our author's only relation at the court of
Cromwell. The chief of his family, Sir John Driden, elder brother of the
poet's father, was also a flaming and bigoted puritan,[35] through whose
gifts and merits his nephew might reasonably hope to attain preferment
In a youth entering life under the protection of such relations, who
could have anticipated the future dramatist and poet laureate, much less
the advocate and martyr of prerogative and of the Stuart family, the
convert and confessor of the Roman Catholic faith? In his after career,
his early connections with the puritans, and the principles of his
kinsmen during the civil wars and usurpation, were often made subjects
of reproach, to which he never seems to have deigned an answer.[36]

The death of Cromwell was the first theme of our poet's muse. Averse as
the puritans were to any poetry, save that of Hopkins, of Withers, or of
Wisdom, they may be reasonably supposed to have had some sympathy with
Dryden's sorrow upon the death of Oliver, even although it vented itself
in the profane and unprofitable shape of an elegy. But we have no means
of estimating its reception with the public, if, in truth, the public
long interested themselves about the memory of Cromwell, while his
relations and dependants presented to them the more animated and
interesting spectacle of a struggle for his usurped power. Richard
perhaps, and the immediate friends of the deceased Protector, with such
of Dryden's relations as were attached to his memory, may have thought,
like the tinker at the Taming of the Shrew, that this same elegy was
"marvellous good matter." It did not probably attract much general
attention. The first edition, in 1659, is extremely rare: it was
reprinted, however, along with those of Sprat and Waller, in the course
of the same year. After the Restoration this piece fell into a slate of
oblivion, from which it may be believed that the author, who had seen a
new light in politics, was by no means solicitous to recall it. His
political antagonist did not, however, fail to awaken its memory, when
Dryden became a decided advocate for the royal prerogative, and the
hereditary right of the Stuarts. During the controversies of Charles the
Second's reign, in which Dryden took so decided a share, his eulogy on
Cromwell was often objected to him, as a proof of inconsistence and
apostasy. One passage, which plainly applies to the civil wars in
general, was wrested to signify an explicit approbation of the murder of
Charles the First; and the whole piece was reprinted by an incensed
antagonist, under the title of "An Elegy on the Usurper O.C., by the
author of Absalom and Achitophel, published (it is ironically added) to
show the loyalty and integrity of the poet,"--an odd piece of vengeance,
which has perhaps never been paralleled, except in the single case of
"Love in a Hollow Tree."[37] The motives of the Duchess of Marlborough,
in reprinting Lord Grimestone's memorable dramatic essay, did not here
apply. The elegy on Cromwell, although doubtless sufficiently faulty,
contained symptoms of a regenerating taste; and, politically considered,
although a panegyric on an usurper, the topics of praise are selected
with attention to truth, and are, generally speaking, such as Cromwell's
worst enemies could not have denied to him. Neither had Dryden made the
errors, or misfortunes, of the royal family, and their followers, the
subject of censure or of contrast. With respect to them, it was hardly
possible that a eulogy on such a theme could have less offence in it.
This was perhaps a fortunate circumstance for Dryden at the Restoration;
and it must be noticed to his honour, that as he spared the exiled
monarch in his panegyric on the usurper, so, after the Restoration, in
his numerous writings on the side of royalty, there is no instance of
his recalling his former praise of Cromwell.

After the frequent and rapid changes which the government of England
underwent from the death of Cromwell, in the spring of 1660, Charles II.
was restored to the throne of his ancestors. It may be easily imagined,
that this event, a subject in itself highly fit for poetry, and which
promised the revival of poetical pursuits, was hailed with universal
acclamation by all whose turn for verse had been suppressed and stifled
during the long reign of fanaticism. The Restoration led the way to the
revival of letters, as well as that of legal government. With diaries,
as Dryden has expressed it,

The officious muses came along,
A gay, harmonious quire, like angels ever young.

It was not, however, to be expected, that an alteration of the taste
which had prevailed in the days of Charles I., was to be the immediate
consequence of the new order of things. The muse awoke, like the
sleeping beauty of the fairy tale, in the same antiquated and absurd
vestments in which she had fallen asleep twenty years before; or, if the
reader will pardon another simile, the poets were like those who, after
long mourning, resume for a time their ordinary dresses, of which the
fashion has in the meantime passed away. Other causes contributed to a
temporary revival of the metaphysical poetry. Almost all its professors,
attached to the house of Stuart, had been martyrs, or confessors at
least, in its cause. Cowley, their leader, was yet alive, and returned
to claim the late reward of his loyalty and his sufferings. Cleveland
had died a victim to the contempt, rather than the persecution, of the
republicans;[38] but this most ardent of cavalier poets was succeeded by
Wild, whose "_Iter Boreale_" a poem on Monk's march from Scotland
formed upon Cleveland's model, obtained extensive popularity among the
citizens of London.[39] Dryden's good sense and natural taste perceived
the obvious defects of these, the very coarsest of metaphysical poets;
insomuch, that, in his "Essay on Dramatic Poetry," he calls wresting and
torturing one word into another, a catachresis, or Clevelandism, and
charges Wild with being in poetry what the French call _un mauvais

Sprat, and an host of inferior imitators, marched for a time in the
footsteps of Cowley; delighted, probably, to discover in Pindaric
writing, as it was called, a species of poetry which required neither
sound nor sense, provided only there was a sufficient stock of florid
and extravagant thoughts, expressed in harsh and bombastic language.

But this style of poetry, although it was for a time revived, and indeed
continued to be occasionally employed even to the end of the eighteenth
century, had too slight foundation in truth and nature to maintain the
exclusive pre-eminence, which it had been exalted to during the reigns
of the two first monarchs of the Stuart race. As Rochester profanely
expressed it, Cowley's poetry was not of God, and therefore could not
stand. An approaching change of public taste was hastened by the manners
of the restored monarch and his courtiers. That pedantry which had
dictated the excessive admiration of metaphysical conceits, was not the
characteristic of the court of Charles II., as it had been of those of
his grandfather and father. Lively and witty by nature, with all the
acquired habits of an adventurer, whose wanderings, military and
political, left him time neither for profound reflection nor for deep
study, the restored monarch's literary taste, which was by no means
contemptible, was directed towards a lighter and more pleasing style of
poetry than the harsh and scholastic productions of Donne and Cowley.
The admirers, therefore, of this old school were confined to the ancient
cavaliers, and the old courtiers of Charles I.; men unlikely to lead the
fashion in the court of a gay monarch, filled with such men as
Buckingham, Rochester, Etherege, Sedley, and Mulgrave, whose time and
habits confined their own essays to occasional verses, and satirical
effusions, in which they often ridiculed the heights of poetry they were
incapable of attaining. With such men the class of poets, which before
the civil war held but a secondary rank, began to rise in estimation.
Waller, Suckling, and Denham, began to assert a pre-eminence over Cowley
and Donne; the ladies, whose influence in the court of James and Charles
I. was hardly felt, and who were then obliged to be contented with such
pedantic worship as is contained in the "Mistress" of Cowley, and the
"Epithalamion" of Donne, began now, when their voices were listened to,
and their taste consulted, to determine that their poetical lovers
should address them in strains more musical, if not more intelligible.
What is most acceptable to the fair sex will always sway the mode of a
gay court; and the character of a smooth and easy sonneteer was soon
considered as an indispensable requisite to a man of wit and fashion,
terms which were then usually synonymous.

To those who still retained a partiality for that exercise of the fancy
and memory, afforded by the metaphysical poetry, the style of satire
then prevalent afforded opportunities of applying it. The same depth of
learning, the same extravagant ingenuity in combining the most remote
images, and in driving casual associations to the verge of absurdity,
almost all the remarkable features which characterised the poetry of
Cowley, may be successfully traced in the satire of Hudibras. The sublime
itself borders closely on the ludicrous; but the bombast and extravagant
cannot be divided from it. The turn of thought, and the peculiar kind of
mental exertion, corresponds in both styles of writing; and although
Butler pursued the ludicrous, and Cowley aimed at the surprising, the
leading features of their poetry only differ like those of the same face
convulsed with laughter, or arrested in astonishment The district of
metaphysical poetry was thus invaded by the satirists, who sought
weapons there to avenge the misfortunes and oppression which they had so
lately sustained from the puritans; and as it is difficult in a laughing
age to render serious what has been once applied to ludicrous purposes,
Butler and his imitators retained quiet possession of the style which
they had usurped from the grave bards of the earlier age.

A single poet, Sir William Davenant,[40] made a meritorious, though a
misguided and unsuccessful effort, to rescue poetry from becoming the
mere handmaid of pleasure, or the partisan of political or personal
disputes, and to restore her to her natural rank in society, as an
auxiliary of religion, policy, law, and virtue. His heroic poem of
"Gondibert" has, no doubt, great imperfections; but it intimates
everywhere a mind above those laborious triflers, who called that poetry
which was only verse; and very often exhibits a majestic, dignified, and
manly simplicity, equally superior to the metaphysical school, by the
doctrines of which Davenant was occasionally misled. Yet, if that author
too frequently imitated their quaint affectation of uncommon sentiment
and associations, he had at least the merit of couching them in stately
and harmonious verse; a quality of poetry totally neglected by the
followers of Cowley. I mention Davenant here, and separate from the
other poets, who were distinguished about the time of the Restoration,
because I think that Dryden, to whom we are about to return, was, at
that period, an admirer and imitator of "Gondibert," as we are certain
that he was a personal and intimate friend of the author.

With the return of the king, the fall of Dryden's political patrons was
necessarily involved. Sir Gilbert Pickering, having been one of
Charles's judges, was too happy to escape into obscurity, under an
absolute disqualification for holding any office, political, civil, or
ecclesiastical. The influence of Sir John Driden was ended at the same
time; and thus both those relations, under whose protection Dryden
entered life, and by whose influence he was probably to have been aided
in some path to wealth or eminence, became at once incapable of
assisting him; and even connection with them was rendered, by the change
of times, disgraceful, if not dangerous. Yet it may be doubted whether
Dryden felt this evil in its full extent. Sterne has said of a
character, that a blessing which closed his mouth, or a misfortune which
opened it with a good grace, were nearly equal to him; nay, that
sometimes the misfortune was the more acceptable of the two. It is
possible, by a parity of reasoning, that Dryden may have felt himself
rather relieved from, than deprived of, his fanatical patrons, under
whose guidance he could never hope to have indulged in that career of
literary pursuit, which the new order of things presented to the
ambition of the youthful poet; at least, he lost no time in useless
lamentation, but, now in his thirtieth year, proceeded to exert that
poetical talent, which had heretofore been repressed by his own
situation, and that of the country.

Dryden, left to his own exertions, hastened to testify his joyful
acquiescence in the restoration of monarchy, by publishing "_Astroea
Redux_," a poem which was probably distinguished among the innumerable
congratulations poured forth upon the occasion; and he added to those
which hailed the coronation, in 1661, the verses entitled, "A Panegyric
to his Sacred Majesty." These pieces testify, that the author had
already made some progress in harmonising his versification. But they
also contain many of those points of wit, and turns of epigram, which he
condemned in his more advanced judgment. The same description applies,
in a yet stronger degree, to the verses addressed to Lord Chancellor
Hyde (Lord Clarendon) on the new-year's-day of 1662, in which Dryden has
more closely imitated the metaphysical poetry than in any poem, except
the juvenile elegy on Lord Hastings. I cannot but think, that the poet
consulted the taste of his patron, rather than his own, in adopting this
peculiar style. Clarendon was educated in the court of Charles I., and
Dryden may have thought it necessary, in addressing him, to imitate the
"strong verses," which were then admired.

According to the fashion of the times, such copies of occasional verses
were rewarded by a gratuity from the person to whom they were addressed;
and poets had not yet learned to think this mode of receiving assistance
incompatible with the feelings of dignity or delicacy. Indeed, in the
common transactions of that age, one sees something resembling the
eastern custom of accompanying with a present, and not always a splendid
one, the usual forms of intercourse and civility. Thus we find the
wealthy corporation of Hull, backing a polite address to the Duke of
Monmouth, their governor, with a present of _six broad pieces_; and his
grace deemed it a point of civility to press the acceptance of the same
gratuity upon the member of parliament for the city, by whom it was
delivered to him.[41] We may therefore believe, that Dryden received
some compliment from the king and chancellor; and I am afraid the same
premises authorise us to conclude that it was but trifling. Meantime,
our author having no settled means of support, except his small landed
property, and having now no assistance to expect from his more wealthy
kinsmen, to whom, probably, neither his literary pursuits, nor his
commencing them by a panegyric on the restoration, were very agreeable,
and whom he had also offended by a slight change in spelling his
name,[42] seems to have been reduced to narrow and uncomfortable
circumstances. Without believing, in its full extent, the exaggerated
account given by Brown and Shadwell,[43] we may discover from their
reproaches, that, at the commencement of his literary career, Dryden was
connected, and probably lodged, with Herringman the bookseller, in the
New Exchange, for whom he wrote prefaces, and other occasional pieces.
But having, as Mr. Malone has observed, a patrimony, though a small one,
of his own, it seems impossible that our author was ever in that state
of mean and abject dependence, which the malice of his enemies
afterwards pretended. The same malice misrepresented, or greatly
exaggerated, the nature of Dryden's obligations to Sir Robert Howard,
with whom he became acquainted probably about the time of the
Restoration, whose influence was exerted in his favour, and whose good
offices the poet returned by literary assistance.

Sir Robert Howard was a younger son of Thomas Earl of Berkshire,[44]
and, like all his family, had distinguished himself as a royalist,
particularly at the battle of Cropredy[45] Bridge. He had recently
suffered a long imprisonment in Windsor Castle during the usurpation.
His rank and merits made him, after the Restoration, a patron of some
consequence; and upon his publishing a collection of verses very soon
after that period, Dryden prefixed an address "to his honoured friend"
on "his excellent poems." Sir Robert Howard understood the value of
Dryden's attachment, introduced him into his family, and probably aided
in procuring his productions that degree of attention from the higher
world, for want of which the most valuable efforts of genius have often
sunk into unmerited obscurity. Such, in short, were his exertions in
favour of Dryden, that, though we cannot believe he was indebted to
Howard, for those necessaries of life which he had the means to procure
for himself, the poet found ground to acknowledge, that his patron had
not only been "carefull of his fortune, which was the effect of his
nobleness, but solicitous of his reputation, which was that of his

Thus patronised, our author seems to have advanced in reputation, as he
became more generally known to the learned and ingenious of his time.
Yet we have but few traces of the labour, by which he doubtless
attained, and secured, his place in society. A short satire on the
Dutch, written to animate the people of England against them, appeared
in 1662.[46] It is somewhat in the hard style of invective, which
Cleveland applied to the Scottish nation; yet Dryden thought it worth
while to weave the same verses into the prologue and epilogue of the
tragedy of "Amboyna," a piece written in 1673, with the same kind
intentions towards the states-general.

Science, as well as poetry, began to revive after the iron dominion of
military fanaticism was ended; and Dryden, who through life was attached
to experimental philosophy, speedily associated himself with those who
took interest in its progress. He was chosen a member of the newly
instituted Royal Society, 26th November 1662; an honour which cemented
his connection with the most learned men of the time, and is an evidence
of the respect in which he was already held. Most of these, and the
discoveries by which they had distinguished themselves, Dryden took
occasion to celebrate in his "Epistle to Dr. Walter Charleton," a
learned physician, upon his treatise of Stonehenge. Gilbert, Boyle,
Harvey, and Ent, are mentioned with enthusiastic applause as treading in
the path pointed out by Bacon, who first broke the fetters of Aristotle,
and taught the world to derive knowledge from experiment. In these
elegant verses, the author divests himself of all the flippant
extravagance of point and quibble, in which, complying with his age, he
had hitherto indulged, though of late in a limited degree.

While thus united in friendly communion with men of kindred and
congenial spirits, Dryden seems to have been sensible of the necessity
of applying his literary talents to some line, in which he might derive
a steadier and more certain recompence, than by writing occasional
verses to the great, or doing literary drudgery for the bookseller. His
own genius would probably have directed him to the ambitious labours of
an epic poem; but for this the age afforded little encouragement.
"Gondibert," the style of which, Dryden certainly both admired and
copied, became a martyr to the raillery of the critics; and to fill up
the measure of shame, the "Paradise Lost" fell still-born from the
press. This last instance of bad taste had not, it is true, yet taken
place; but the men who were guilty of it, were then living under
Dryden's observation and their manners and habits could not fail to
teach him, to anticipate the little encouragement they were likely to
afford to the loftier labours of poetry. One only line remained, in
which poetical talents might exert themselves, with some chance of
procuring their possessor's reward, or at least maintenance, and this
was dramatic composition. To this Dryden sedulously applied himself,
with various success, for many years. But before proceeding to trace the
history of his dramatic career, I proceed to notice such pieces of his
poetry, as exhibit marks of his earlier style of composition.

The victory gained by the Duke of York over the Dutch fleet on the 3d of
June 1665, and his Duchess's subsequent journey into the north,
furnished Dryden with the subject of a few occasional verses; in which
the style of Waller (who came forth with a poem on the same subject) is
successfully imitated. In addressing her grace, the poet suppresses all
the horrors of the battle, and turns her eyes upon the splendour of a
victory, for which the kingdom was indebted to her husband's valour, and
her "chaste vows." In these verses, not the least vestige of
metaphysical wit can be traced; and they were accordingly censured, as
wanting height of fancy, and dignity of words. This criticism Dryden
refuted, by alleging, that he had succeeded in what he did attempt, in
the softness of expression and smoothness of the measure (the
appropriate ornaments of an address to a lady), and that he was accused
of that only thing which he could well defend. It seems, however, very
possible, that these remarks impelled him to undertake a task, in which
vigour of fancy and expression might, with propriety, be exercised.
Accordingly, his next poem was of greater length and importance. This is
a historical account of the events of the year 1666, under the title of
"_Annus Mirabilis_" to which distinction the incidents which had
occurred in that space gave it some title. The poem being in the elegiac
stanza, Dryden relapsed into an imitation of "Gondibert," from which he
had departed ever since the "Elegy on Cromwell." From this it appears,
that the author's admiration of Davenant had not decreased. Indeed, he,
long afterwards, bore testimony to that author's quick and piercing
imagination; which at once produced thoughts remote, new, and
surprising, such as could not easily enter into any other fancy. Dryden
at least equalled Davenant in this quality; and certainly excelled him
in the powers of composition, which are to embody the conceptions of the
imagination; and in the extent of acquired knowledge, by which they were
to be enforced and illustrated. In his preface, he has vindicated the
choice of his stanza, by a reference to the opinion of Davenant,[47]
which he sanctions by affirming, that he had always himself thought
quatrains, or stanzas of verse in alternate rhyme, more noble, and of
greater dignity, both for sound and number, than any other verse in use
among us. By this attention to sound and rhythm, he improved upon the
school of metaphysical poets, which disclaimed attention to either; but
in the thought and expression itself, the style of Davenant more nearly
resembled Cowley's, than that of Denham and Waller. The same ardour for
what Dryden calls "wit-writing," the same unceasing exercise of the
memory, in search of wonderful thoughts and allusions, and the same
contempt for the subject, except as the medium of displaying the
author's learning and ingenuity, marks the style of Davenant, though in
a less degree than that of the metaphysical poets, and though chequered
with many examples of a simpler and chaster character. Some part of this
deviation was, perhaps, owing to the nature of the stanza; for the
structure of the quatrain prohibited the bard, who used it, from
rambling into those digressive similes, which, in the pindaric strophe,
might be pursued through endless ramifications. If the former started an
extravagant thought, or a quaint image, he was compelled to bring it to
a point within his four-lined stanza. The snake was thus scotched,
though not killed; and conciseness being rendered indispensable, a great
step was gained towards concentration of thought, which is necessary to
the simple and to the sublime The manner of Davenant, therefore, though
short-lived, and ungraced by public applause, was an advance towards
true taste, from the unnatural and frantic indulgence of unrestrained
fancy; and, did it claim no other merit, it possesses that of having
been twice sanctioned by the practice of Dryden, upon occasions of
uncommon solemnity.

The "_Annus Mirabilis_" evinces a considerable portion of labour and
attention; the lines and versification are highly polished, and the
expression was probably carefully corrected. Dryden as Johnson remarks,
already exercised the superiority of his genius, by recommending his own
performance, as written upon the plan of Virgil; and as no unsuccessful
effort at producing those well-wrought images and descriptions, which
create admiration, the proper object of heroic poetry. The "_Annus
Mirabilis_" may indeed be regarded as one of Dryden's most elaborate
pieces; although it is not written in his later, better, and most
peculiar style of poetry.

The poem first appeared in octavo, in 1667, and was afterwards
frequently reprinted in quarto. It was dedicated to the metropolis of
Great Britain, as represented by the lord mayor and magistrates. A
letter to Sir Robert Howard was prefixed to the poem, in which the
author explains the purpose of the work, and the difficulties which
presented themselves in the execution. And in this epistle, as a
contrast between the smooth and easy style of writing which was proper
in addressing a lady, and the exalted style of heroic, or at least
historical, poetry, he introduces the verses to the Duchess of York,
already mentioned.

The "_Annus Mirabilis_" being the last poetical work of any importance
produced by our author, until "Absalom and Achitophel," the reader may
here pause, and consider, in the progressive improvement of Dryden, the
gradual renovation of public taste. The irregular pindaric ode was now
abandoned to Arwaker, Behn, Durfey, and a few inferior authors; who
either from its tempting facility of execution, or from an affected
admiration of old times and fashions, still pestered the public with
imitations of Cowley. The rough measure of Donne (if it had any
pretension to be called a measure) was no longer tolerated, and it was
expected, even of those who wrote satires, lampoons, and occasional
verses, that their rhymes should be rhymes, both to the ear and eye; and
that they should neither adore their mistresses nor abuse their
neighbours, in lines which differed only from prose in the fashion of
printing. Thus the measure used by Rochester, Buckingham Sheffield,
Sedley, and other satirists, if not polished or harmonized, approaches
more nearly to modern verse, than that of Hall or Donne. In the "Elegy
on Cromwell," and the "_Annus Mirabilis_," Dryden followed Davenant, who
abridged, if he did not explode, the quaintnesses of his predecessors.
In "_Astroea Redux_" and his occasional verses to Dr. Charlton, the
Duchess of York, and others, the poet proposed a separate and simpler
model, more dignified than that of Suckling or Waller; more harmonious
in measure, and chaste in expression, than those of Cowley and Crashaw.
Much, there doubtless remained, of ancient subtlety, and ingenious
quibbling; but when Dryden declares, that he proposes Virgil, in
preference to Ovid, to be his model in the "_Annus Mirabilis_" it
sufficiently implies that the main defect of the poetry of the last age
had been discovered, and was in the way of being amended by gradual and
almost imperceptible degrees.

In establishing, or refining, the latter style of writing, in couplet
verse, our author found great assistance from his dramatic practice; to
trace the commencement of which is the purpose of the next Section.

[1] [The statements in this paragraph are somewhat rhetorical.
Massinger, for instance, was still at Oxford when James ascended the
throne, and though he began to write a few years later, his earliest
published play now extant appeared nearly twenty years afterwards. But
the general drift is untouched.--ED.]

[2] I do not pretend to enter into the question of the effect of the
drama upon morals. If this shall be found prejudicial, two theatres are
too many. But, in the present woful decline of theatrical exhibition, we
may be permitted to remember, that the gardener who wishes to have a
rare diversity of a common flower, sows whole beds with the species; and
that the monopoly granted to two huge theatres must necessarily
diminish, in a complicated ratio, both the number of play-writers, and
the chance of anything very excellent being brought forward.

[3] [Scott is here far too harsh. "Euphues" is not a book to be
despatched in a note, but the reader may be requested to suspend his
judgment until he has read it.--ED.]

[4] Our deserved idolatry of Shakespeare and Milton was equalled by that
paid to this pedantic coxcomb in his own time. He is called in the
title-page of his plays (for, besides "Euphues," he wrote what he styled
"Court Comedies"), "the only rare poet of that time; the witty, comical,
facetiously quick, and unparalleled John Lillie." Moreover, his editor,
Mr. Blount, assures us, "that he sate at Apollo's table; that Apollo
gave him a wreath of his own bays without snatching; and that the lyre
he played on had no broken strings." Besides which, we are informed,
"Our nation are in his debt for a new English, which he taught them;
'Euphues and his England' began first that language. All our ladies were
then his scholars; and that beauty in court who could not _parle
Euphuism_, was as little regarded, as she which now there speaks not

[5] So that learned and sapient monarch was pleased to call his skill in

[6] Witness a sermon preached at St. Mary's before the university of
Oxford. It is true the preacher was a layman, and harangued in a gold
chain, and girt with a sword, as high sheriff of the county; but his
eloquence was highly applauded by the learned body whom he addressed,
although it would have startled a modern audience, at least as much as
the dress of the orator. "Arriving," said he, "at the Mount of St.
Mary's, in the stony stage where I now stand, I have brought you some
fine biscuits, baked in the oven of charity, carefully conserved for the
chickens of the church, the sparrows of the spirit, and the sweet
swallows of salvation." "Which way of preaching," says Anthony Wood, the
reporter of the homily, "was then mostly in fashion, and commended by
the generality of scholars."--_Athenae Oxon_. vol. i. p.183.

[7] Look at Ben Jonson's "Ode to the Memory of Sir Lucius Carey and Sir
H. Morison," and at most of his Pindarics. But Ben, when he pleased,
could assume the garb of classic simplicity; witness many of his lesser

[8] In Jonson's last illness, Charles is said to have sent him ten
pieces. "He sends me so miserable a donation," said the expiring
satirist, "because I am poor, and live in an alley; go back and tell
him, his soul lives in an alley." Whatever be the truth of this
tradition, we know from an epigram by Jonson, that the king at one time
gave him an hundred pounds; no trifling gift for a poor bard, even in
the present day.

[9] "About a year after his return out of Germany, Dr. Cary was made
bishop of Exeter; and by his removal, the deanery of St. Paul's being
vacant, the king sent to Dr. Donne, and appointed him to attend him at
dinner the next day. When his majesty was sate down, before he had eat
any meat, he said, after his pleasant manner, 'Dr. Donne, I have invited
you to dinner; and though you sit not down with me, yet I will carve to
you of a dish that I know you love well; for knowing you love London, I
do therefore make you dean of Paul's; and when I have dined, then do you
take your beloved dish home to your study; say grace there to yourself,
and much good may it do you."--WALTON'S _Life of Donne._

[10] See his "Verses to Mr. George Herbert, sent him with one of my
seals of the anchor and Christ. A sheaf of snakes used heretofore to be
my seal, which is the crest of our poor family." Upon the subject of
this change of device he thus quibbles:

"Adopted in God's family, and so
My old coat lost, into new arms I go;
The cross my seal, in baptism spread below,
Does by that form into an anchor grow:
Crosses grow anchors; bear as thou shouldst do
Thy cross, and that cross grows an anchor too," etc.

[11] See his Life, prefixed to his Poems, 12mo, 1677.

[12] It is pleasing to see the natural good taste of honest old Isaac
Walton struggling against that of his age. He introduces the beautiful

"Come live with me, and be my love,"

as "that smooth song made by Kit Marlow, now at least fifty years ago."
"The milkmaid's mother," he adds, "sung an answer to it, which was made
by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger days. They were old-fashioned
poetry, but choicely good. I think much better than _the strong lines_
that are in fashion in this critical age."--_The Complete Angler_, Edit.
vi. p. 65.

[13] "A Poem on the Danger Charles I., being Prince, escaped in the Road
at St. Andero."

[14] [The Jacobean and Caroline poets, especially Donne and Cowley,
require considerable allowance to be made on Scott's judgment by those
who are not familiar with them.--ED.]

[15] _Fasti Oxon._ vol. i. p. 115. Considering John Dryden's marriage
with the heiress of a man of knightly rank, it seems unlikely that he
followed the profession of a schoolmaster. But Wood could hardly be
mistaken in the second circumstance some of the family having gloried in
it in his hearing.

[16] See Collins' _Baronetage_, vol. ii. The testator bequeaths his soul
to his Creator, with this singular expression of confidence, "the Holy
Ghost assuring my spirit, that I am the elect of God."

[17] Robert Keies, executed 31st January 1606, of whom Fuller, in his
Church History, tells the following anecdote:--"A few days before the
fatal blow should have been given, Keies, being at Tichmarsh, in
Northamptonshire, at his brother-in-law's house, Mr. Gilbert Pickering,
a Protestant, he suddenly whipped out his sword, and in merriment made
many offers therewith at the heads, necks, and sides, of several
gentlemen and ladies then in his company. It was then taken for a mere
frolic, and so passed accordingly; but afterwards, when the treason was
discovered, such as remembered his gestures thought he practised what he
intended to do when the plot should take effect; that is, to hack and
hew, kill and destroy, all eminent persons of a different religion from
himself."--CAULFIELD's _History of the Gunpowder Plot._

[18] The following curious story is told to that effect, in Caulfield's
"History of the Gunpowder Plot," p. 67:--

"There was a Mr. Pickering of Tichmarsh-Grove, in Northamptonshire who
was in great esteem with King James. This Mr. Pickering had a horse of
special note for swiftness, on which he used to hunt with the king. A
little before the blow was to be given, Mr. Keies, one of the
conspirators, and brother-in-law to Mr. Pickering, borrowed this horse
of him, and conveyed him to London upon a bloody design, which was thus
contrived:--Fawkes, upon the day of the fatal blow, was appointed to
retire himself into St. George's Fields, where this horse was to attend
him, to further his escape (as they made him believe) as soon as the
Parliament should be blown up. It was likewise contrived, that Mr.
Pickering, who was noted for a puritan, should that morning be murdered
in his bed, and secretly conveyed away; and also that Fawkes, as soon as
he came into St. George's Fields, should be there murdered, and so
mangled, that he could not be known; upon which, it was to be spread
abroad, that the puritans had blown up the parliament-house; and the
better to make the world believe it, there was Mr. Pickering, with his
choice horse ready to escape. But that stirred up some, who seeing the
heinousness of the fact, and him ready to escape, in detestation of so
horrible a deed, fell upon him, and hewed him to pieces; and to make it
more clear, there was his horse, known to be of special speed and
swiftness, ready to carry him away; and upon this rumour, a massacre
should have gone through the whole land upon the puritans.

"When the contrivance of this plot was discovered by some of the
conspirators, and Fawkes, who was now a prisoner in the Tower, made
acquainted with it, whereas before he was made to believe by his
companions, that he should be bountifully rewarded for that his good
service to the Catholic cause, now perceiving, that, on the contrary,
his death had been contrived by them, he thereupon freely confessed all
that he knew concerning that horrid conspiracy, which before all the
torments of the rack could not force him to do.

"The truth of this was attested by Mr. William Perkins, who had it from
Mr. Clement Cotton, to whom Mr. Pickering gave the above relation."

[19] Erasmus, the poet's immediate younger brother, was in trade, and
resided in King-street, Westminster. He succeeded to the family title
and estate upon the death of Sir John Dryden, and died at the seat of
Canons-Ashby 3d November 1718, leaving one daughter and five grandsons.
Henry, the poet's third brother, went to Jamaica, and died there,
leaving a son, Richard. James, the fourth of the sons, was a tobacconist
in London, and died there, leaving two daughters. Of the daughters, Mr.
Malone, after Oldys, says, that Agnes married Sylvester Emelyn of
Stanford, Gent.; that Rose married ---- Laughton of Calworth, D.D., in
the county of Huntington; that Lucy became the wife of Stephen Umwell of
London, merchant; and Martha of ---- Bletso of Northampton. Another of
the daughters was married to one Shermardine, a bookseller in Little
Britain; and Frances, the youngest, to Joseph Sandwell, a tobacconist in
Newgate-street This last died 10th October 1730, at the advanced age of
ninety. She had survived the poet about thirty years. Of the remaining
four sisters, no notices occur.

[20] [A few facts of a more precise kind about the contents of this and
the foregoing paragraphs may be grouped here. The Rev. H. Pickering was
rector of Aldwinkle (the better form) All-Saints from 1507 to 1637, not
from 1647 to 1657. This destroys Scott's inference. The error arose from
a misreading of his epitaph. "The village" did not strictly belong to
Lord Exeter: but he had property in Aldwinkle St. Peter's, and the two
parishes are close together, one church being at one end and the other
at the other of the joint village. Erasmus Dryden and Mary Pickering
were married at the church of Pilton, a very small village between
Aldwinkle and Oundle, on October 21, 1630. Dryden was therefore
indisputably the eldest son. Blakesley, where his father's property was
situated, is not near Aldwinkle or Tichmarsh, which are close together
on opposite sides of the river Nene, and about two miles from Thrapston,
but near Canons-Ashby on the other side of the county. The estate (of
about two hundred acres) was united to that of Canons-Ashby after the
death of Dryden's youngest son. But, unlike Canons-Ashby, it does not
now belong to the family, having been sold many years ago.--ED.]

"And though no wit ran royal blood infuse,
No more than melt a mother to a muse,
Yet much a certain poet undertook,
That men and manners deals in without book;
And might not more to gospel truth belong,
Than he _(if christened)_ does by name of John."
_Poetical Reflections_, etc. See vol. ix.

Another opponent of our author calls him

"A bristled Baptist bred, and then thy strain
Immaculate was free from sinful stain."
_The Laureat_, vol. x.

[22] Upon a monument, erected by Elizabeth Creed to the poet's memory in
the church at Tichmarsh, are these words:--"We boast that he was bred
and had his first learning here." [A rival tradition favours Oundle,
which had and has a grammar school of merit.--ED.]

[23] The date is not known. That of his admission to Trinity, _infra_,
should be May 18. He matriculated on July 16, and was not elected to his
scholarship till October 2.--ED.

[24] [More usually Busby.--ED.]

[25] "I remember (says Dryden, in a postscript to the argument of the
third satire of Perseus) I translated this satire when I was a King's
scholar at Westminster school, for Thursday night's exercise; and
believe, that it, and many other of my exercises of this nature in
English verse, are still in the hands of my learned master, the Rev. Dr.

[26] The following order is quoted, by Mr. Malone, from the
Conclusion-book, in the archives of Trinity College, p. 221.

"July 19, 1652. Agreed, then, That Dryden be put out of Comons, for a
fortnight at least; and that he goe not out of the colledg, during the
time aforesaid, excepting to sermons, without express leave from the
master, or vice-master; and that, at the end of the fortnight, he read
a confession of his crime in the hall, at dinner time, at the three
... fellowes table.

"His crime was, his disobedience to the vice-master, and his contumacy
in taking his punishment inflicted by him."

[27] Shadwell, in the Medal of John Bayes,

"At Cambridge Brat your scurrilous vein began,
Where saucily you traduced a nobleman;
Who for that crime rebuked you on the head,
And you had been expelled, had you not fled."

[28] He received this degree by dispensation from the Archbishop of

[29] Prologue to the University of Oxford.

[30] Jonathan Dryden, elected a scholar from Westminster into Trinity
College, Cambridge, in 1656, of which he became fellow in 1662, was
author of some verses in the Cambridge Collections in 1661, on the death
of the Duke of Gloucester, and the marriage of the Princess of Orange;
and in 1662, on the marriage of Charles II., which have been imputed to
our author. An order, quoted by Mr. Malone, for abatement of the
commencement-money paid at taking the Bachelor's degree, on account of
poverty, applies to Jonathan, not to John Dryden.--MALONE, vol. i. p.17,

[31] [This letter will be found in its proper place. It is the sole
personal utterance in prose, and almost the only biographical fact of
importance that we have for the first thirty years of Dryden's life.
Upon it, an entirely baseless romance has been built of disappointed
love and parental unkindness. There is absolutely no evidence that
Dryden ever seriously pretended to his cousin's hand, or that he was
rejected, or that this rejection was due to his uncle's influence.--ED.]

[32] Elegy on Lady Haddington, in Corbet's Poems, p. 121. Gilchrist's

[33] Sir John Pickering, father of Sir Gilbert, married Susan, the
sister of Erasmus Dryden, the poet's father. But Mary Pickering, the
poet's mother, was niece to Sir John Pickering; and thus his son Sir
Gilbert was _her_ cousin-german also.

[34] In one lampoon, he is called "fiery Pickering." Walker, in his
"Sufferings of the Clergy," prints Jeremiah Stevens' account of the
Northamptonshire committee of sequestration in which the character of
Pickering, one of the members of that oppressive body, is thus drawn:--
"Sir G---- P---- had an uncle, whose ears were cropt for a libel on
Archbishop Whitgift; was first a presbyterian, then an independent, then
a Brownist, and afterwards an anabaptist. He was a most furious, fiery,
implacable man; was the principal agent in casting out most of the
learned clergy; a great oppressor of the country; got a good manor for
his booty of the E. of R. and a considerable purse of gold by a plunder
at Lynn in Norfolk." He is thus characterized by an angry limb of the
commonwealth, whose republican spirit was incensed by Cromwell creating
a peerage:--"Sir Gilbert Pickering, knight of the old stamp, and of
considerable revenue in Northamptonshire; one of the Long Parliament,
and a great stickler in the change of the government from kingly to that
of a commonwealth;--helped to make those laws of treason against
kingship; has also changed with all changes that have been since. He was
one of the Little Parliament, and helped to break it, as also of all the
parliaments since; is one of the Protector's council (his salary L1000
_per annum_, besides other places), and as if he had been pinned to this
slieve, was never to seek; is become high steward of Westminster; and
being so finical, spruce, and like an old courtier, is made
lord-chamberlain of the Protector's household or court; so that he may
well be counted fit and worthy to be taken out of the House to have a
negative voice in the other House, though he helped to destroy it in the
king and lords. There are more besides him, that make themselves
transgressors by building again the things which they once destroyed."
Quoted by Mr. Malone from a rare pamphlet in his collection entitled "A
Second Narrative of the late Parliament, 1658."

[35] Like Sir Gilbert Pickering, he was a member of the Northamptonshire
committee of sequestration, and his deeds are thus commemorated in
Walker's "Sufferings of the Clergy:"--"Sir J---- D----n was never noted
for ability or discretion; was a puritan by tenure, his house (Canons
Ashby) being an ancient college, where he possessed the church, and
abused most part of it to profane uses: the chancel he turned to a barn;
the body of it to a corn-chamber and storehouse, reserving one side
aisle of it for the public service of prayers, etc. He was noted for
weakness and simplicity, and never put on any business of moment, but
was very furious against the clergy."

[36] In a satire called "The Protestant Poets," our author is thus
contrasted with Sir Roger L'Estrange. In levelling his reproaches, the
satirist was not probably very solicitous about genealogical accuracy;
as, in the eighth line, I conceive Sir John Dryden to be alluded to,
although he is termed our poet's grandfather, when he was in fact his
uncle. Sir Erasmus Dryden was indeed a fanatic, and so was Henry
Pickering, Dryden's paternal and maternal grandfather; but neither were
men of mark or eminence:

"But though he spares no waste of words or conscience,
He wants the Tory turn of thorough nonsense,
That thoughtless air, that makes light Hodge so jolly;--
Void of all weight, _he_ wantons in his folly.
No so forced BAYES, whom sharp remorse attends,
While his heart loaths the cause his tongue defends;
Hourly he acts, hourly repents the sin,
And is all over _grandfather_ within:
By day that ill-laid spirit checks,--o' nights
Old Pickering's ghost, a dreadful spectre, frights.
Returns of spleen his slacken'd speed remit,
And crump his loose careers with intervals of wit:
While, without stop at sense, or ebb of spite,
Breaking all bars, bounding o'er wrong and right,
Contented Roger gallops out of sight."

[37] This piece was called in, and destroyed by the noble author; but
Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, when opposing Lord Grimestone at an
election, maliciously printed and dispersed a large impression of his
smothered performance, with a frontispiece representing an elephant
dancing on the slack rope.

[38] He was one of the garrison of Newark, which held out so long for
Charles I., and has left a curious specimen of the wit of the time, in
his controversy with a parliamentary officer, whose servant had robbed
him, and taken refuge in Newark. The following is the beginning of his
answer to a demand that the fugitive should be surrendered:

"Sixthly, Beloved,

"Is it so then, that our brother and fellow-labourer in the Gospel is
start aside? then this may serve for an use of instruction, not to trust
in man, nor in the son of man. Did not Demas leave Paul? did not
Onesimus run from his master Philemon? besides, this should teach us to
employ our talent, and not to lay it up in a napkin. Had it been done
among the cavaliers, it had been just; then the Israelite had spoiled
the Egyptian; but for Simeon to plunder Levi, that! that! You see, sir,
what use I make of the doctrine you sent me; and indeed since you change
style so far as to nibble at wit, you must pardon me, if, to quit
scores, I pretend a little to the gift of preaching," etc.

Such was the wit of Cleveland. After the complete subjugation of the
royalists, he was apprehended, having in his possession a bundle of
poems and satirical songs against the republicans. He appeared before
the commonwealth-general with the dignified air of one who is prepared
to suffer for his principles. He was disappointed; for the military
judge, after a contemptuous glance at the papers, exclaimed to
Cleveland's accusers, "Is this all ye have against him? Go, let the poor
knave sell his ballads!" Such an acquittal was more severe than any
punishment. The conscious virtue of the loyalist would have borne the
latter; but the pride of the poet could not sustain his contemptuous
dismissal; and Cleveland is said to have broken his heart in
consequence.--_Biographia Britannica_, voce _Cleveland_.

[39] "He is the very Withers of the city," says Dryden of Wild; "they
have bought more editions of his works than would serve to lay under all
their pies at the lord mayor's Christmas. When his famous poem first
came out in the year 1660, I have seen them reading it in the midst of
change time; nay, so vehement they were at it, that they lost their
bargain by the candles' ends; but what will you say, if he has been
received amongst great persons? I can assure you he is this day the envy
of one who is lord in the art of quibbling, and who does not take it
well, that any man should intrude so far into his province."--Vol. xv.

[40] [It may be well to note that "Gondibert" was published in 1651, ten
years before the Restoration. This does not affect the general accuracy
of Scott's remarks as to Davenant's poetical position and his influence
on Dryden, but the reader might draw a mistaken inference from those
remarks as to the date of the poem.--ED.]

[41] "The Duke of Monmouth returned on Saturday from New-Market. To-day
I waited on him, and first presented him with your letter, which he read
all over very attentively; and then prayed me to assure you, that he
would, upon all occasions, be most ready to give you the marks of his
affection, and assist you in any affairs you should recommend to him. I
then delivered him the six broad pieces, telling him, that I was deputed
to blush on your behalf for the meanness of the present, etc.; but he
took me off, and said he thanked you for it, and accepted it as a token
of your kindness. He had, before I came in, as I was told, considered
what to do with the gold; and but that I by all means prevented the
offer, or I had been in danger of being reimbursed with it."--ANDREW
MARVELL'S _Works_, vol. i. p. 210; _Letter to the Mayor of Hull_.

[42] From Driden to Dryden.

[43] Shadwell makes Dryden say, that after some years spent at the
university, he came to London. "At first I struggled with a great deal
of persecution, took up with a lodging which had a window no bigger than
a pocket looking-glass, dined at a three-penny ordinary enough to starve
a vacation tailor, kept little company, went clad in homely drugget, and
drunk wine as seldom as a rechabite, or the grand seignior's confessor."
The old gentleman, who corresponded with the "Gentleman's Magazine," and
remembered Dryden before the rise of his fortunes, mentions his suit of
plain drugget, being, by the bye, the same garb in which he has clothed
Flecnoe, who "coarsely clad in Norwich drugget came."

[44] [Scott, by an evident slip, "Berkeley."--ED.]

[45] [Scott, "Cropley."--ED.]

[46] [This is a mistake. See "Amboyna."--ED.]

[47] Davenant alleges the advantages of a respite and pause between
every stanza, which should be so constructed as to comprehend a period;
and adds, "nor doth alternate rhyme, by any lowliness of cadence, make
the sound less heroic, but rather adapt it to a plain and stately
composing of music; and the brevity of the stanza renders it less subtle
to the composer, and more easy to the singer, which, in _stilo
recitativo_, when the story is long, is chiefly requisite."--_Preface
to Gondibert._


_Revival of the Drama at the Restoration--Heroic Plays--Comedies of
Intrigue--Commencement of Dryden's Dramatic Career--The Wild Gallant--
Rival Ladies--Indian Queen and Emperor--Dryden's Marriage--Essay on
Dramatic Poetry, and subsequent Controversy with Sir Robert Howard--The
Maiden Queen--The Tempest--Sir Martin Mar-all--The Mock Astrologer--The
Royal Martyr--The Two Parts of the Conquest of Granada--Dryden's
Situation at this Period._

It would appear that Dryden, at the period of the Restoration, renounced
all views of making his way in life except by exertion of the literary
talents with which he was so eminently endowed. His becoming a writer of
plays was a necessary consequence; for the theatres, newly opened after
so long silence, were resorted to with all the ardour inspired by
novelty; and dramatic composition was the only line which promised
something like an adequate reward to the professors of literature. In
our sketch of the taste of the seventeenth century previous to the
Restoration, this topic was intentionally postponed.

In the times of James I. and of his successor, the theatre retained, in
some degree, the splendour with which the excellent writers of the
virgin reign had adorned it. It is true, that authors of the latter
period fell far below those gigantic poets, who flourished in the end of
the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries; but what the
stage had lost in dramatic composition, was, in some degree, supplied by
the increasing splendour of decoration, and the favour of the court. A
private theatre, called the Cockpit, was maintained at Whitehall, in
which plays were performed before the court; and the king's company of
actors often received command to attend the royal progresses.[1]
Masques, a species of representation calculated exclusively for the
recreation of the great, in whose halls they were exhibited, were an
usual entertainment of Charles and his consort. The machinery and
decorations were often superintended by Inigo Jones, and the poetry
composed by Ben Jonson the laureate. Even Milton deigned to contribute
one of his most fascinating poems to the service of the drama; and,
notwithstanding the severity of his puritanic tenets, "Comus" could only
have been composed by one who felt the full enchantment of the theatre.
But all this splendour vanished at the approach of civil war. The stage
and court were almost as closely united in their fate as royalty and
episcopacy, had the same enemies, the same defenders, and shared the
same overwhelming ruin. "No throne no theatre," seemed as just a dogma
as the famous "No king no bishop." The puritans indeed commenced their
attack against royalty in this very quarter; and, while they impugned
the political exertions of prerogative, they assailed the private
character of the monarch and his consort, for the encouragement given to
the profane stage, that rock of offence, and stumbling-block to the
godly. Accordingly, the superiority of the republicans was no sooner
decisive, than the theatres were closed, and the dramatic poets
silenced. No department of poetry was accounted lawful; but the drama
being altogether unhallowed and abominable, its professors were
persecuted, while others escaped with censure from the pulpit, and
contempt from the rulers. The miserable shifts to which the surviving
actors were reduced during the commonwealth, have been often detailed.
At times they were connived at by the caprice or indolence of their
persecutors; but, in general, so soon as they had acquired any slender
stock of properties, they were beaten, imprisoned, and stripped, at the
pleasure of the soldiery.[2]

The Restoration naturally brought with it a revived taste for those
elegant amusements, which, during the usurpation, had been condemned as
heathenish, or punished as appertaining especially to the favourers of
royalty. To frequent them, therefore, became a badge of loyalty, and a
virtual disavowal of those puritanic tenets which all now agreed in
condemning. The taste of the restored monarch also was decidedly in
favour of the drama. At the foreign courts, which it had been his lot to
visit, the theatre was the chief entertainment; and as amusement was
always his principal pursuit, it cannot be doubted that he often sought
it there. The interest, therefore, which the monarch took in the
restoration of the stage, was direct and personal. Had it not been for
this circumstance, it seems probable that the general audience, for a
time at least, would have demanded a revival of those pieces which had
been most successful before the civil wars; and that Shakespeare,
Massinger, and Fletcher, would have resumed their acknowledged
superiority upon the English stage. But as the theatres were
re-established and cherished by the immediate influence of the
sovereign, and of the court which returned with him from exile, a taste
formed during their residence abroad dictated the nature of
entertainments which were to be presented to them. It is worthy of
remark, that Charles took the models of the two grand departments of the
drama from two different countries.

France afforded the pattern of those tragedies which continued in
fashion for twenty years after the Restoration, and which were called
Rhyming or Heroic Plays. In that country, however, contrary to the
general manners of the people, a sort of stately and precise ceremonial
early took possession of the theatre. The French dramatist was under the
necessity of considering less the situation of the persons of the drama,
than that of the performers who were to represent it before a monarch
and his court. It was not, therefore, sufficient for the author to
consider how human beings would naturally express themselves in the
predicament of the scene; he had the more embarrassing task of so
modifying their expressions of passion and feeling, that they might not
exceed the decorum necessary in the august presence of the _grand
monarque_. A more effectual mode of freezing the dialogue of the drama
could hardly have been devised, than by introducing into the theatre the
etiquette of the drawing-room. That etiquette also, during the reign of
Louis XIV., was of a kind peculiarly forced and unnatural The romances
of Calprenede and Scudery, those ponderous and unmerciful folios now
consigned to utter oblivion, were in that reign not only universally
read and admired, but supposed to furnish the most perfect models of
gallantry and heroism; although, in the words of an elegant female
author, these celebrated writings are justly described as containing
only "unnatural representations of the passions, false sentiments, false
precepts, false wit, false honour, and false modesty, with a strange
heap of improbable, unnatural incidents, mixed up with true history, and
fastened upon some of the great names of antiquity."[3] Yet upon the
model of such works were framed the court manners of the reign of Louis,
and, in imitation of them, the French tragedy, in which every king was
by prescriptive right a hero, every female a goddess, every tyrant a
fire-breathing chimera, and every soldier an irresistible Amadis; in
which, when perfected, we find lofty sentiments, splendid imagery,
eloquent expression, sound morality, everything but the language of
human passion and human character. In the hands of Corneille, and still
more in those of Racine, much of the absurdity of the original model was
cleared away, and much that was valuable substituted in its stead; but
the plan being fundamentally wrong, the high talents of these authors
unfortunately only tended to reconcile their countrymen to a style of
writing which must otherwise have fallen into contempt. Such as it was,
it rose into high favour at the court of Louis XIV., and was by Charles
introduced upon the English stage. "The favour which heroic plays have
lately found upon our theatres," says our author himself, "have been
wholly derived to them from the countenance and approbation they have
received at court."[4]

The French comedy, although Moliere was in the zenith of his reputation,
appears not to have possessed equal charms for the English monarch. The
same restraint of decorum, which prevented the expression of natural
passion in tragedy, prohibited all indelicate licence in comedy.
Charles, probably, was secretly pleased with a system, which cramped the
effusions of the tragic muse, and forbade, as indecorous, those bursts
of rapturous enthusiasm, which might sometimes contain matter unpleasing
to a royal ear.[5] But the merry monarch saw no good reason why the muse
of comedy should be compelled to "dwell in decencies for ever," and did
not feel at all degraded when enjoying a gross pleasantry, or profane
witticism, in company with the mixed mass of a popular audience. The
stage, therefore, resumed more than its original licence under his
auspices. Most of our early plays, being written in a coarse age, and
designed for the amusement of a promiscuous and vulgar audience, were
dishonoured by scenes of coarse and naked indelicacy. The positive
enactments of James, and the grave manners of his son, in some degree
repressed this disgraceful scurrility; and, in the common course of
events, the English stage would have been gradually delivered from this
reproach by the increasing influence of decency and taste.[6] But
Charles II., during his exile, had lived upon a footing of equality with
his banished nobles, and partaken freely and promiscuously in the
pleasure and frolics by which they had endeavoured to sweeten adversity.
To such a court the amusements of the drama would have appeared insipid,
unless seasoned with the libertine spirit which governed their lives,
and which was encouraged by the example of the monarch. Thus it is
acutely argued by Dennis, in reply to Collier, that the depravity of the
theatre, when revived, was owing to that very suppression, which had
prevented its gradual reformation. And just so a muddy stream, if
allowed its free course, will gradually purify itself; but, if dammed up
for a season, and let loose at once, its first torrent cannot fail to be
impregnated with every impurity. The licence of a rude age was thus
revived by a corrupted one; and even those plays which were translated
from the French and Spanish, were carefully seasoned with as much
indelicacy, and double entendre, as was necessary to fit them for the
ear of the wittiest and most profligate of monarchs.

Another remarkable feature in the comedies which succeeded the
Restoration is the structure of their plot, which was not, like that of
the tragedies, formed upon the Parisian model. The English audience had
not patience for the regular comedy of their neighbours, depending upon
delicate turns of expression, and nicer delineation of character. The
Spanish comedy, with its bustle, machinery, disguise, and complicated
intrigue, was much more agreeable to their taste. This preference did
not arise entirely from what the French term the phlegm of our national
character, which cannot be affected but by powerful stimulants. It is
indeed certain, that an Englishman expects his eye, as well as his ear,
to be diverted by theatrical exhibition; but the thirst of novelty was
another and separate reason which affected the style of the revived
drama. The number of new plays represented every season was incredible;
and the authors were compelled to have recourse to that mode of
composition which was most easily executed. Laboured accuracy of
expression, and fine traits of character, joined to an arrangement of
action, which should be at once pleasing, interesting, and probable,
require sedulous study, deep reflection, and long and repeated
correction and revision. But these were not to be expected from a
playwright, by whom three dramas were to be produced in one season; and
in their place were substituted adventures surprises, rencounters,
mistakes, disguises, and escapes, all easily accomplished by the
intervention of sliding panels, closets, veils, masks, large cloaks, and
dark lanthorns. If the dramatist was at a loss for employing these
convenient implements, the fifteen hundred plays of Lope de Vega were at
hand for his instruction; presenting that rapid succession of events,
and those sudden changes in the situation of the personages, which,
according to the noble biographer of the Spanish dramatist, are the
charms by which he interests us so forcibly in his plots.[7] These
Spanish plays had already been resorted to by the authors of the earlier
part of the century. But under the auspices of Charles II., who must
often have witnessed the originals while abroad, and in some instances
by his express command, translations were executed of the best and most
lively Spanish comedies.[8]

The favourite comedies therefore, after the Restoration, were such as
depended rather upon the intricacy than the probability of the plot;
rather upon the vivacity and liveliness, than on the natural expression

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