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

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his piece. Neither was the obvious application of the story of Absalom
and Achitophel to the persons of Monmouth and Shaftesbury first made by
our poet. A prose paraphrase, published in 1080, had already been
composed upon this allusion.[5] But the vigour of the satire, the happy
adaptation, not only of the incidents, but of the very names to the
individuals characterised, gave Dryden's poem the full effect of
novelty. It appeared a very short time after Shaftesbury had been
committed to the Tower, and only a few days before the grand jury were
to take under consideration the bill preferred against him for high
treason. Its sale was rapid beyond example; and even those who were most
severely characterised, were compelled to acknowledge the beauty, if not
the justice, of the satire. The character of Monmouth, an easy and
gentle temper, inflamed beyond its usual pitch by ambition, and seduced
by the arts of a wily and interested associate, is touched with
exquisite delicacy. The poet is as careful of the offending Absalom's
fame, as the father in Scripture of the life of his rebel son. The
fairer side of his character is industriously presented, and a veil
drawn over all that was worthy of blame. But Shaftesbury pays the lenity
with which Monmouth is dismissed. The traits of praise, and the tribute
paid to that statesman's talents, are so qualified and artfully blended
with censure, that they seem to render his faults even more conspicuous,
and more hateful. In this skilful mixture of applause and blame lies the
nicest art of satire. There must be an appearance of candour on the part
of the poet, and just so much merit allowed, even to the object of his
censure, as to make his picture natural. It is a child alone who fears
the aggravated terrors of a Saracen's head; the painter, who would move
the awe of an enlightened spectator, must delineate his tyrant with
human features. It seems likely, that Dryden considered the portrait of
Shaftesbury, in the first edition of "Absalom and Achitophel," as
somewhat deficient in this respect; at least the second edition contains
twelve additional lines, the principal tendency of which is to praise
the ability and integrity with which Shaftesbury had discharged the
office of lord high chancellor. It has been reported, that this
mitigation was intended to repay a singular exertion of generosity on
Shaftesbury's part, who, while smarting under the lash of Dryden's
satire, and in the short interval between the first and second edition
of the poem, had the liberality to procure admission for the poet's son
upon the foundation of the Charterhouse, of which he was then governor.
But Mr. Malone has fully confuted this tale, and shown, from the records
of the seminary, that Dryden's son Erasmus was admitted upon the
recommendation of the king himself.[6] The insertion, therefore, of the
lines in commemoration of Shaftesbury's judicial character, was a
voluntary effusion on the part of Dryden, and a tribute which he seems
to have judged it proper to pay to the merit even of an enemy. Others of
the party of Monmouth, or rather of the opposition party (for it
consisted, as is commonly the case, of a variety of factions, agreeing
in the single principle of opposition to the government), were
stigmatised with severity, only inferior to that applied to Achitophel.
Among these we distinguish the famous Duke of Buckingham, with whom,
under the character of Zimri, our author balanced accounts for his share
in the "Rehearsal;" Bethel, the Whig sheriff, whose scandalous avarice
was only equalled by his factious turbulence; and Titus Oates, the
pretended discoverer of the Popish Plot. The account of the Tory chiefs,
who retained, in the language of the poem, their friendship for David at
the expense of the popular hatred, included, of course, most of Dryden's
personal protectors. The aged Duke of Ormond is panegyrised with a
beautiful apostrophe to the memory of his son, the gallant Earl of
Ossory. The Bishops of London and Rochester; Mulgrave our author's
constant patron, now reconciled with Charles and his government; the
plausible and trimming Halifax; and Hyde, Earl of Rochester, second son
to the great Clarendon, appear in this list. The poet having thus
arrayed and mustered the forces on each side, some account of the combat
is naturally expected; and Johnson complains, that, after all the
interest excited, the story is but lamely winded up by a speech from the
throne, which produces the instantaneous and even marvellous effect, of
reconciling all parties, and subduing the whole phalanx of opposition.
Even thus, says the critic, the walls, towers, and battlements of an
enchanted castle disappear, when the destined knight winds his horn
before it. Spence records in his Anecdotes, that Charles himself imposed
on Dryden the task of paraphrasing the speech to his Oxford parliament,
at least the most striking passages, as a conclusion to his poem of
"Absalom and Achitophel."

But let us consider whether the nature of the poem admitted of a
different management in the close. Incident was not to be attempted; for
the poet had described living characters and existing factions, the
issue of whose contention was yet in the womb of fate, and could not
safely be anticipated in the satire. Besides, the dissolution of the
Oxford parliament with that memorable speech, was a remarkable era in
the contention of the factions, after which the Whigs gradually
declined, both in spirit, in power, and in popularity. Their boldest
leaders were for a time appalled;[7] and when they resumed their
measures, they gradually approached rather revolution than reform, and
thus alienated the more temperate of their own party, till at length
their schemes terminated in the Rye-house Conspiracy. The speech having
such an effect, was therefore not improperly adopted as a termination to
the poem of "Absalom and Achitophel."

The success of this wonderful satire was so great, that the court had
again recourse to the assistance of its author. Shaftesbury was now
liberated from the Tower; for the grand jury, partly influenced by
deficiency of proof, and partly by the principles of the Whig party, out
of which the sheriffs had carefully selected them, refused to find the
bill of high treason against him. This was a subject of unbounded
triumph to his adherents, who celebrated his acquittal by the most
public marks of rejoicing. Amongst others, a medal was struck, bearing
the head and name of Shaftesbury, and on the reverse, a sun, obscured
with a cloud, rising over the Tower and city of London, with the date of
the refusal of the bill (24th November 1681), and the motto LAETAMUR.
These medals, which his partisans wore ostentatiously at their bosoms,
excited the general indignation of the Tories; and the king himself is
said to have suggested it as a theme for the satirical muse of Dryden,
and to have rewarded his performance with an hundred broad pieces. To a
poet of less fertility, the royal command, to write again upon a
character which, in a former satire, he had drawn with so much precision
and felicity, might have been as embarrassing at least as honourable.
But Dryden was inexhaustible; and easily discovered, that, though he had
given the outline of Shaftesbury in "Absalom and Achitophel," the
finished colouring might merit another canvas. About the sixteenth of
March 1681, he published, anonymously "The Medal, a Satire against
Sedition," with the apt motto,

"_Per Graium populos, mediaeque per Elidis urbem
Ibat ovans; Divumque sibi poscebat honores._"

In this satire, Shaftesbury's history; his frequent political
apostasies; his licentious course of life, so contrary to the stern
rigour of the fanatics, with whom he had associated; his arts in
instigating the fury of the anti-monarchists; in fine, all the political
and moral bearings of his character sounded and exposed to contempt and
reprobation, the beauty of the poetry adding grace to the severity of
the satire. What impression these vigorous and well-aimed darts made
upon Shaftesbury, who was so capable of estimating their sharpness and
force, we have no means to ascertain; but long afterwards, his grandson,
the author of the "Characteristics," speaks of Dryden and his works with
a bitter affectation of contempt, offensive to every reader of judgment,
and obviously formed on prejudice against the man, rather than dislike
to the poetry.[8] It is said, that he felt more resentment on account of
the character of imbecility adjudged to his father in "Absalom and
Achitophel," than for all the pungent satire, there and in the "Medal,"
bestowed upon his grandfather; an additional proof, how much more easy
it is to bear those reflections which render ourselves or our friends
hateful, than those by which they are only made ridiculous and
contemptible. The Whig poets, for many assumed that title, did not
behold these attacks upon their leader and party with patience or
forbearance; but they rushed to the combat with more zeal, or rather
fury, than talent or policy. Their efforts are numbered and described
elsewhere;[9] so that we need here only slightly notice those which
Dryden thought worthy of his own animadversion. Most of them adopted the
clumsy and obvious expedient of writing their answers in the style of
the successful satire which had provoked them. Thus, in reply to
"Absalom and Achitophel," Pordage and Settle imitated the plan of
bestowing scriptural names on their poem and characters the former
entitling his piece "Azaria and Hushai," the latter, "Absalom Senior, or
Absalom and Achitophel transposed." But these attempts to hurl back the
satire at him by whom it was first launched, succeeded but
indifferently, and might have convinced the authors that the charm of
"Absalom and Achitophel" lay not in the plan, but in the power of
execution. It was easy to give Jewish titles to their heroes, but the
difficulty lay in drawing their characters with the force and precision
of their prototype. Buckingham himself was rash enough to engage in this
conflict; but, whether his anger blunted his wit, or that his share in
the "Rehearsal" was less even than what is generally supposed, he loses,
by his "Reflections on Absalom and Achitophel," the credit we are
disposed to allow him for talent on the score of that lively piece.[10]
A nonconformist clergyman published two pieces, which I have never seen,
one entitled, "A Whip for the Fool's Back, who styles honourable
Marriage a cursed confinement, in his profane Poem of Absalom and
Achitophel;" the other, "A Key, with the Whip, to open the Mystery and
Iniquity of the Poem called Absalom and Achitophel." Little was to be
hoped or feared from poems bearing such absurd titles: I throw, however,
into the note, the specimen which Mr. Malone has given of their
contents.[11] The reverend gentleman having announced, that Achitophel,
in Hebrew, means "the brother of a fool," Dryden retorted, with infinite
coolness, that in that case the author of the discovery might pass with
his readers for next akin, and that it was probably the relation which
made the kindness.

"The Medal" was answered by the same authors who replied to "Absalom and
Achitophel," as if the Whigs had taken in sober earnest the advice which
Dryden bestowed on them in the preface to that satire. And moreover (as
he there expressly recommends) they railed at him abundantly, without a
glimmering of wit to enliven their scurrility. Hickeringill, a crazy
fanatic, began the attack with a sort of mad poem, called "The
Mushroom." It was written and sent to press the very day on which "The
Medal" appeared; a circumstance on which the author valued himself so
highly, as to ascribe it to divine inspiration.[12] With more labour,
and equal issue, Samuel Pordage, a minor poet of the day, produced "The
Medal Reversed;" for which, and his former aggression, Dryden brands
him, in a single line of the Second Part of "Absalom and Achitophel," as

"Lame Mephibosheth, the wizard's[13] son."

There also appeared "The Loyal Medal Vindicated," and a piece entitled
"Dryden's Satire to his Muse," imputed to Lord Somers, but which, in
conversation with Pope, he positively disavowed. All these, and many
other pieces, the fruits of incensed and almost frantic party fury, are
marked by the most coarse and virulent abuse. The events in our author's
life were few, and his morals, generally speaking, irreproachable; so
that the topics for the malevolence of his antagonists were both scanty
and strained. But they ceased not, with the true pertinacity of angry
dulness, to repeat, in prose and verse, in couplet, ballad, and
madrigal, the same unvaried accusations, amounting in substance to the
following: That Dryden had been bred a puritan and republican; that he
had written an elegy on Cromwell (which one wily adversary actually
reprinted); that he had been in poverty at the Restoration; that Lady
Elizabeth Dryden's character was tarnished by the circumstances
attending their nuptials; that Dryden had written the "Essay on Satire,"
in which the king was libelled; that he had been beaten by three men in
Rose-alley; finally, that he was a Tory, and a tool of arbitrary power.
This cuckoo song, garnished with the burden of _Bayes_ and _Poet
Squab_,[14] was rung in the ear of the public again and again, and with
an obstinacy which may convince us how little there was to be said, when
that little was so often repeated. Feeble as these attacks were, their
number, like that of the gnats described by Spenser,[15] seems to have
irritated Dryden to exert the power of his satire, and, like the blast
of the northern wind, to sweep away at once these clamorous and busy,
though ineffectual assailants. Two, in particular, claimed distinction
from the nameless crowd; Settle, Dryden's ancient foe, and Shadwell, who
had been originally a dubious friend.

Of Dryden's controversy with Settle we have already spoken fully; but we
may here add, that, in addition to former offences of a public and
private nature, Elkanah, in the Prologue to the "Emperor of Morocco,"
acted in March 1681-2, had treated Dryden with great irreverence.[16]
Shadwell had been for some time in good habits with Dryden; yet an early
difference of taste and practice in comedy, not only existed between
them, but was the subject of reciprocal debate, and something
approaching to rivalry.

Dryden, as we have seen, had avowed his preference of lively dialogue in
comedy to delineation of character, or, in other words, of wit and
repartee to what was then called humour. On this subject Shadwell early
differed from the laureate. Conscious of considerable powers in
observing nature, while he was deficient in that liveliness of fancy
which is necessary to produce vivacity of dialogue, Shadwell affected,
or perhaps entertained, a profound veneration for the memory of Ben
Jonson, and proposed him as his model in the representation of such
characters as were to be marked by _humour_, or an affectation of
singularity of manners, speech, and behaviour. Dryden, on the other
hand, was no great admirer either of Jonson's plays in general, or of
the low and coarse characters of vice and folly, in describing which lay
his chief excellency; and this opinion he had publicly intimated in the
"Essay of Dramatic Poesy." In the preface to the very first of
Shadwell's plays, printed in 1668, he takes occasion bitterly, and with
a direct application to Dryden, to assail the grounds of this criticism
and the comedies of the author who had made it.[17] If this petulance
produced any animosity, it was not lasting; for in the course of their
controversy, Dryden appeals to Shadwell, whether he had not rather
countenanced than impeded his first rise in public favour; and, in 1674,
they made common cause with Crowne to write those Remarks, which were to
demolish Settle's "Empress of Morocco." Even in 1670, while Shadwell
expresses the same dissent from Dryden's opinion concerning the merit of
Jonson's comedy, it is in very respectful terms, and with great
deference to his respected and admired friend, of whom, though he will
not say his is the best way of writing, he maintains his manner of
writing it is most excellent[18]. But the irreconcilable difference in
their taste soon after broke out in less seemly terms; for Shadwell
permitted himself to use some very irreverent expressions towards
Dryden's play of "Aureng-Zebe," in the Prologue and Epilogue to his
comedy of the "Virtuoso;" and in the Preface to the same piece he
plainly intimated, that he wanted nothing but a pension to enable him to
write as well as the poet-laureate.[19] This attack was the more
intolerable, as Dryden, in the Preface to that very play of "Aureng-Zebe,"
probably meant to include Shadwell among those contemporaries
who, even in his own judgment excelled him in comedy. In 1678 Dryden
accommodated with a prologue Shadwell's play of the "True Widow;" but to
write these occasional pieces was part of his profession, and the
circumstance does not prove that the breach between these rivals for
public applause was ever thoroughly healed; on the contrary, it seems
likely, that, in the case of Shadwell, as in that of Settle, political
hatred only gangrened a wound inflicted by literary rivalry. After their
quarrel became desperate, Dryden resumed his prologue, and adapted it to
a play by Afra Behn, called the "Widow Ranter, or Bacon in
Virginia."[20] Whatever was the progress of the dispute, it is certain
that Shadwell, as zealously attached to the Whig faction as Dryden to
the Tories, buckled on his armour among their other poetasters to
encounter the champion of royalty. His answer to "The Medal" is entitled
"The Medal of John Bayes:" it appeared in autumn 1681, and is
distinguished by scurrility, even among the scurrilous lampoons of
Settle, Care, and Pordage. Those, he coolly says, who know Dryden, know
there is not an untrue word spoke of him in the poem; although he is
there charged with the most gross and infamous crimes. Shadwell also
seems to have had a share in a lampoon, entitled "The Tory Poets," in
which both Dryden and Otway were grossly reviled.[21] On both occasions,
his satire was as clumsy as his overgrown person, and as brutally coarse
as his conversation: for Shadwell resembled Ben Jonson in his vulgar and
intemperate pleasures, as well as in his style of comedy and corpulence
of body.[22] Dryden seems to have thought, that such reiterated attacks,
from a contemporary of some eminence, whom he had once called friend,
merited a more severe castigation than could be administered in a
general satire. He therefore composed "Mac-Flecknoe, or a Satire on the
True Blue Protestant Poet, T.S., by the Author of Absalom and
Achitophel," which was published 4th October 1682. Richard Flecknoe,
from whom the piece takes its title, was so distinguished as a wretched
poet, that his name had become almost proverbial. Shadwell is
represented as the adopted son of this venerable monarch, who so long

"In prose and verse was owned without dispute,
Through all the realms of Nonsense absolute."

The solemn inauguration of Shadwell as his successor in this drowsy
kingdom, forms the plan of the poem; being the same which Pope
afterwards adopted on a broader canvas for his "Dunciad." The vices and
follies of Shadwell are not concealed, while the awkwardness of his
pretensions to poetical fame are held up to the keenest ridicule. In an
evil hour, leaving the composition of low comedy, in which he held an
honourable station, he adventured upon the composition of operas and
pastorals. On these the satirist falls without mercy; and ridicules, at
the same time, his pretensions to copy Ben Jonson:

"Nor let false friends seduce thy mind to fame,
By arrogating Jonson's hostile name;
Let father Flecknoe fire thy mind with praise,
And uncle Ogleby thy envy raise.
Thou art my blood, where Jonson has no part:
What share have we in nature or in art?
Where did his wit on learning fix a brand,
And rail at arts he did not understand?
Where made he love in Prince Nicander's vein,
Or swept the dust in Psyche's humble strain?"

This unmerciful satire was sold off in a very short time; and it seems
uncertain whether it was again published until 1084, when it appeared
with the author's name in Tonson's first Miscellany. It would seem that
Dryden did not at first avow it, though, as the title-page assigned it
to the author of "Absalom and Achitophel," we cannot believe Shadwell's
assertion, that he had denied it with oaths and imprecations. Dryden,
however, omits this satire in the [first [23]] printed list of his plays
and poems, along with the Eulogy on Cromwell. But he was so far from
disowning it, that, in his "Essay on Satire," he quotes "Mac-Flecknoe"
as an instance given by himself of the Varronian satire. Poor Shadwell
was extremely disturbed by this attack upon him; the more so, as he
seems hardly to have understood its tendency. He seriously complains,
that he is represented by Dryden as an Irishman, "when he knows that I
never saw Ireland till I was three-and-twenty years old, and was there
but for four months." He had understood Dryden's parable literally; so
true it is, that a knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear.

"Mac-Flecknoe," though so cruelly severe, was not the only notice which
Shadwell received of Dryden's displeasure at his person and politics.
"Absalom and Achitophel," and "The Medal," having been so successful, a
second part to the first poem was resolved on, for the purpose of
sketching the minor characters of the contending factions. Dryden
probably conceiving that he had already done his part, only revised this
additional book, and contributed about two hundred lines. The body of
the poem was written by Nahum Tate, one of those second-rate bards, who,
by dint of pleonasm and expletive can find smooth lines if any one will
supply them with ideas. The Second Part of "Absalom and Achitophel" is,
however, much beyond his usual pitch, and exhibits considerable marks of
a careful revision by Dryden, especially in the satirical passages; for
the eulogy on the Tory chiefs is in the flat and feeble strain of Tate
himself, as is obvious when it is compared with the description of the
Green-Dragon Club, the character of Corah, and other passages exhibiting
marks of Dryden's hand.

But if the Second Part of "Absalom and Achitophel" fell below the first
in its general tone, the celebrated passage inserted by Dryden possessed
even a double portion of the original spirit. The victims whom he
selected out of the partisans of Monmouth and Shaftesbury for his own
particular severity, were Robert Ferguson, afterwards well known by the
name of The Plotter; Forbes; Johnson, author of the parallel between
James, Duke of York, and Julian the Apostate; but, above all, Settle and
Shadwell, whom, under the names of Doeg and Og, he has depicted in the
liveliest colours his poignant satire could afford. They who have
patience to look into the lampoons which these worthies had published
against Dryden, will, in reading his retort, be reminded of the combats
between the giants and knights of romance. His antagonists came on with
infinite zeal and fury, discharged their ill-aimed blows on every side,
and exhausted their strength in violent and ineffectual rage. But the
keen and trenchant blade of Dryden never makes a thrust in vain, and
never strikes but at a vulnerable point. This, we have elsewhere
remarked, is a peculiar attribute of his satire;[24] and it is difficult
for one assailed on a single ludicrous foible to make good his
respectability though possessed of a thousand valuable qualities; as it
was impossible for Achilles, invulnerable everywhere else, to survive
the wound which a dexterous archer had aimed at his heel. With regard to
Settle, there is a contempt in Dryden's satire which approaches almost
to good-humour, and plainly shows how far our poet was now from
entertaining those apprehensions of rivalship, which certainly dictated
his portion of the "Remarks on the Empress of Morocco." Settle had now
found his level, and Dryden no longer regarded him with a mixture of
rage and apprehension, but with more appropriate feelings of utter
contempt. This poor wight had acquired by practice, and perhaps from
nature, more of a poetical ear than most of his contemporaries were
gifted with. His "blundering melody," as Dryden terms it, is far sweeter
to the ear than the flat and ineffectual couplets of Tate; nor are his
verses always destitute of something approaching to poetic fancy and
spirit. He certainly, in his transposition of "Absalom and Achitophel,"
mimicked the harmony of his original with more success than was attained
by Shadwell, Buckingham or Pordage.[25] But in this facility of
versification all his merit began and ended; in our author's phrase,

"Doeg, though without knowing how or why,
Made still a blundering kind of melody;
Spurred boldly on, and dashed though thick and thin,
Through sense and nonsense, never out nor in;
Free from all meaning, whether good or bad,
And, in one word, heroically mad.
He was too warm on picking-work to dwell,
But faggoted his notions as they fell,
And, if they rhymed and rattled, all was well."

Ere we take leave of Settle, it is impossible to omit mentioning his
lamentable conclusion; a tale often told and moralised upon, and in
truth a piece of very tragical mirth. Elkanah, we have seen, was at this
period a zealous Whig; nay, he was so far in the confidence of
Shaftesbury that, under his direction, and with his materials, he had
been intrusted to compose a noted libel against the Duke of York,
entitled, "The Character of a Popish Successor." Having a genius for
mechanics, he was also exalted to be manager of a procession for burning
the Pope; which the Whigs celebrated with great pomp, as one of many
artifices to inflame the minds of the people.[26] To this, and to the
fireworks which attended its solemnisation, Dryden alludes in the lines
to which Elkanah's subsequent disasters gave an air of prophecy:--

"In fireworks give him leave to vent his spite,
Those are the only servants he can write;
The height of his ambition is, we know,
But to be master of a puppet-show;
On that one stage his works may yet appear,
And a month's harvest keeps him all the year."

Notwithstanding the rank he held among the Whig authors,[27] Settle,
perceiving the cause of his patron Shaftesbury was gradually becoming
weaker, fairly abandoned him to his fate, and read a solemn recantation
of his political errors in a narrative published in 1683. The truth
seems to be, that honest Doeg was poet-laureate to the city, and earned
some emolument by composing verses for pageants and other occasions of
civic festivity; so that when the Tory interest resumed its ascendency
among the magistrates, he had probably no alternative but to relinquish
his principles or his post, and Elkanah, like many greater men, held the
former the easier sacrifice. Like all converts, he became outrageous in
his new faith, wrote a libel on Lord Russell a few days after his
execution; indited a panegyric on Judge Jefferies; and, being _tam Marte
quam Mercurio_, actually joined as a trooper the army which King James
encamped upon Hounslow Heath. After the Revolution, he is enumerated,
with our author and Tate, among those poets whose strains had been
stifled by that great event.[28] He continued, however, to be the
city-laureate;[29] but, in despite of that provision, was reduced by
want to write plays, like Ben Jonson's Littlewit, for the profane
_motions_, or puppet-shows, of Smithfield and Bartholomew fairs. Nay,
having proceeded thus far in exhibiting the truth of Dryden's
prediction, he actually mounted the stage in person among these wooden
performers, and combated St. George for England in a green dragon of his
own proper device. Settle was admitted into the Charterhouse in his old
age, and died there in 1723. The lines of Pope on poor Elkanah's fate
are familiar to every poetical reader:--

"In Lud's old walls though long I ruled, renowned
Far as loud Bow's stupendous bells resound;
Though my own aldermen conferred the bays,
To me committing their eternal praise,
Their full-fed heroes, their pacific mayors,
Their annual trophies and their monthly wars;
Though long my party built on me their hopes,
For writing pamphlets, and for roasting popes;
Yet lo! in me what authors have to brag on!
Reduced at last to hiss in my own dragon.
Avert it, heaven! that thou, or Cibber, e'er
Should wag a serpent-tail in Smithfield fair!
Like the vile straw that's blown about the streets,
The needy poet sticks to all he meets;
Coached, carted, trod upon, now loose, now fast,
And carried off in some dog's tail at last."

As Dryden was probably more apprehensive of Shadwell, who, though a
worse poet than Settle, has excelled even Dryden in the lower walks of
comedy, he has treated him with sterner severity. His person, his
morals, his manners and his politics, all that had escaped or been but
slightly touched upon in "Mac-Flecknoe," are bitterly reviewed in the
character of Og; and there probably never existed another poet, who, at
the distance of a month, which intervened between the publication of the
two poems, could resume an exhausted theme with an energy which gave it
all the charms of novelty. Shadwell did not remain silent beneath the
lash; but his clamorous exclamations only tended to make his castigation
more ludicrous.[30]

The Second Part of "Absalom and Achitophel" was followed by the
"_Religio Laici_," a poem which Dryden published in the same month of
November 1682. Its tendency, although of a political nature, is so
different from that of the satires, that it will be most properly
considered when we can place it in contrast to the "Hind and Panther."
It was addressed to Henry Dickinson, a young gentleman, who had just
published a translation of Simon's "Critical History of the New

As the publication of the two Parts of "Absalom and Achitophel," "The
Medal," and "Mac-Flecknoe," all of a similar tone, and rapidly
succeeding each other, gave to Dryden, hitherto chiefly known as a
dramatist, the formidable character of an inimitable satirist, we may
here pause to consider their effect upon English poetry. The witty
Bishop Hall had first introduced into our literature that species of
poetry; which, though its legitimate use be to check vice and expose
folly, is so often applied by spleen or by faction to destroy domestic
happiness, by assailing private character. Hall possessed a good ear for
harmony; and, living in the reign of Elizabeth, might have studied it in
Spenser, Fairfax, and other models. But from system, rather than
ignorance or inability, he chose to be "hard of conceit, and harsh of
style," in order that his poetry might correspond with the sharp, sour,
and crabbed nature of his theme.[31] Donne, his successor, was still
more rugged in his versification, as well as more obscure in his
conceptions and allusions. The satires of Cleveland (as we have indeed
formerly noticed) are, if possible, still harsher and more strained in
expression than those of Donne. Butler can hardly be quoted as an
example of the sort of satire we are treating of. "Hudibras" is a
burlesque tale, in which the measure is intentionally and studiously
rendered as ludicrous as the characters and incidents. Oldham, who
flourished in Dryden's time, and enjoyed his friendship, wrote his
satires in the crabbed tone of Cleveland and Donne. Dryden, in the copy
of verses dedicated to his memory, alludes to this deficiency, and seems
to admit the subject as an apology:--

"O early ripe! to thy abundant store
What could advancing age have added more!
It might (what nature never gives the young)
Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue.
But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line."

Yet the apology which he admitted for Oldham, Dryden disdained to make
use of himself. He did not, as has been said of Horace, wilfully untune
his harp when he commenced satirist. Aware that a wound may be given
more deeply with a burnished than with a rusty blade, he bestowed upon
the versification of his satires the same pains which he had given to
his rhyming plays and serious poems. He did not indeed, for that would
have been pains misapplied, attempt to smooth his verses into the
harmony of those in which he occasionally celebrates female beauty; but
he gave them varied tone, correct rhyme, and masculine energy, all which
had hitherto been strangers to the English satire.

Thus, while Dryden's style resembled that of Juvenal rather than Horace,
he may claim a superiority, for uniform and undeviating dignity, over
the Roman satirist. The age, whose appetite for scandal had been
profusely fed by lampoons and libels, now learned, that there was a more
elevated kind of satire, in which poignancy might be united with
elegance, and energy of thought with harmony of versification. The
example seems to have produced a strong effect. No poet, not even Settle
(for even the worst artist will improve from beholding a masterpiece),
afterwards conceived he had sufficiently accomplished his task by
presenting to the public, thoughts, however witty or caustic he might
deem them, clothed in the hobbling measure of Donne or Cleveland; and
expression and harmony began to be consulted, in satire, as well as
sarcastic humour or powerful illustration.

"Mac-Flecknoe," in some degree, differs from the other satires which
Dryden published at this time. It is not confined to the description of
character, but exhibits an imaginary course of incidents, in which the
principal personage takes a ludicrous share. In this it resembles
"Hudibras;" and both are quoted by Dryden himself as examples of the
Varronian satire. But there was this pointed difference, that Butler's
poem is burlesque, and Dryden's mock-heroic. "Mac-Flecknoe" is, I rather
believe, the first poem in the English language, in which the dignity of
a harmonised and lofty style is employed, not only to excite pleasure in
itself, but to increase, by contrast, the comic effect of the scenes
which it narrates; the subject being ludicrous, while the verse is
noble. The models of satire afforded by Dryden, as they have never been
equalled by any succeeding poet, were in a tone of excellence superior
far to all that had preceded them.

These reflections on the nature of Dryden's satires, have, in some
degree, interrupted our account of his political controversies. Not only
did he pour forth these works, one after another, with a fertility which
seemed to imply delight in his new labour; but, as if the spirit of the
time had taught him speed, he found leisure to oppose the Whigs in the
theatre, where the audience was now nearly as much divided as the
kingdom by the contending factions. Settle had produced the tragedy of
"Pope Joan," Shadwell the comedy of the "Lancashire Witches," to expose
to hatred and ridicule the religion of the successor to the crown. Otway
and D'Urfey, Crowne and Southerne, names unequal in fame, vied in
producing plays against the Whigs, which might counterbalance the effect
of these popular dramas. A licence similar to that of Aristophanes was
introduced on the English stage; and living personages were exhibited
under very slight disguises.[32] In the prologues and epilogues, which
then served as a sort of moral to the plays, the veil, thin as it was,
was completely raised, and the political analogies pointed out to such
of the audience as might otherwise have been too dull to apprehend them.
In this sharp though petty war Dryden bore a considerable share. His
necessities obliged him, among other modes of increasing his income, to
accept of a small pecuniary tribute for furnishing prologues on
remarkable occasions, or for new plays; and his principles determined
their tendency.[33] But this was not all the support which his party
expected, and which he afforded them on the theatre, even while
labouring in their service in a different department.

When Dryden had but just finished his "_Religio Laici_," Lee, who had
assisted in the play of "Oedipus," claimed Dryden's promise to requite
the obligation. It has been already noticed, that Dryden had, in the
year succeeding the Restoration, designed a play on the subject of the
Duke of Guise; and he has informed us he had preserved one or two of the
scenes. These, therefore, were revised, and inserted in the new play, of
which Dryden wrote the first scene, the whole fourth act, and great part
of the fifth. Lee composed the rest of "The Duke Of Guise." The general
parallel between the League in France and the Covenant in England, was
too obvious to escape early notice; but the return of Monmouth to
England against the king's express command, in order to head the
opposition, perhaps the insurrection, of London, presented a still
closer analogy to the entry of the Duke of Guise into Paris, under
similar circumstances, on the famous day of the barricades. Of this
remarkable incident, the united authors of "The Duke of Guise" naturally
availed themselves; though with such precaution, that almost the very
expressions of the scene are taken from the prose of Davila. Yet the
plot, though capable of an application so favourable for the royal
party, contained circumstances of offence to it. If the parallel between
Guise and Monmouth was on the one hand felicitous, as pointing out the
nature of the Duke's designs, the moral was revolting, as seeming to
recommend the assassination of Charles's favourite son. The king also
loved Monmouth to the very last; and was slow and reluctant in
permitting his character to be placed in a criminal or odious point of
view.[34] The play, therefore, though ready for exhibition before
midsummer 1682, remained in the hands of Arlington the lord-chamberlain
for two months without being licensed for representation. But during
that time the scene darkened. The king had so far suppressed his
tenderness for Monmouth, as to authorise his arrest at Stafford; and the
influence of the Duke of York at court became daily more predominant.
Among other evident tokens that no measures were hence-forward to be
kept between the king and Monmouth, the representation of "The Duke of
Guise" was at length authorised.

The two companies of players, after a long and expensive warfare, had
now united their forces; on which occasion Dryden furnished them with a
prologue, full of violent Tory principles. By this united company "The
Duke of Guise" was performed on the 30th December 1682. It was printed
with a dedication to Hyde, Earl of Rochester, subscribed by both
authors, but evidently the work of Dryden. It is written in a tone of
defiance to the Whig authors, who had assailed the dedicators, it
alleges, "like footpads in the dark," though their blows had done little
harm, and the objects of their malice yet lived to vindicate their
loyalty in open day. The play itself has as determined a political
character as the dedication. Besides the general parallel between the
leaguers and the fanatical sectaries, and the more delicate, though not
less striking, connection between the story of Guise and of Monmouth,
there are other collateral allusions in the piece to the history of that
unfortunate nobleman, and to the state of parties. The whole character
of Marmoutiere, high-spirited, loyal, and exerting all her influence to
deter Guise from the prosecution of his dangerous schemes, corresponds
to that of Anne, Duchess of Monmouth.[35] The love too which the king
professes to Marmoutiere, and which excites the jealousy of Guise, may
bear a remote and delicate allusion to that partiality which the Duke of
York is said to have entertained for the wife of his nephew.[36] The
amiable colours in which Marmoutiere is painted, were due to the Duchess
of Monmouth, Dryden's especial patroness. Another more obvious and more
offensive parallel existed between the popular party in the city, with
the Whig sheriffs at their head, and that of the _Echevins_, or sheriffs
of Paris, violent demagogues and adherents to the League, and who, in
the play, are treated with great contumely by Grillon and the royal
guards. The tumults which had taken place at the election of these
magistrates were warm in the recollection of the city; and the
commitment of the ex-sheriffs, Shute and Pilkington, to the Tower, under
pretext of a riot, was considered as the butt of the poet's satire.
Under these impressions the Whigs made a violent opposition to the
representation of the piece, even when the king gave it his personal
countenance. And although, in despite of them, "The Duke of Guise" so
far succeeded, as "to be frequently acted, and never without a
considerable attendance," we may conclude from these qualified
expressions of the author himself, that the play was never eminently
popular. He, who writes for a party, can only please at most one half of
his audience.

It was not to be expected that, at a time so very critical, a public
representation, including such bold allusions, or rather parallels,
should pass without critical censure. "The Duke of Guise" was attacked
by Dryden's old foe Shadwell, in some verses, entitled, "A Lenten
Prologue refused by the Players;"[37] and more formally, in "Reflections
on the pretended Parallel in the Play called the Duke of Guise." In this
pamphlet Shadwell seems to have been assisted by a gentleman of the
Temple, so zealous for the popular cause, that Dryden says he was
detected disguised in a livery-gown, proffering his vote at the
Common-hall. Thomas Hunt, a barrister,[38] likewise stepped forth on
this occasion; and in his "Defence of the Charter of London," then
challenged by the famous process of _Quo Warranto_, he accuses Dryden of
having prepared the way for that arbitrary step, by the degrading
representation of their magistrates executed in effigy upon the stage.
Dryden thought these pamphlets of consequence enough to deserve an
answer, and published, soon after, "The Vindication of the Duke of
Guise." In perusing the controversy, we may admire two circumstances,
eminently characteristical of the candour with which such controversies
are usually maintained: First, the anxiety with which the critics labour
to fix upon Dryden a disrespectful parallel between Charles II. and
Henry II. [III.] of France, which certainly our author did not propose
to carry farther than their common point of situation; and secondly, the
labour with which he disavows what he unquestionably did intend,--a
parallel between the rebellious conduct of Monmouth and of Guise. The
Vindication is written in a tone of sovereign contempt for the
adversaries, particularly for Shadwell. Speaking of Thomas Hunt, Dryden
says,--"Even this their celebrated writer knows no more of style and
English than the Northern dictator; as if dulness and clumsiness were
fatal to the name of _Tom_. It is true, he is a fool in three languages
more than the poet; for, they say, 'he understands Latin, Greek, and
Hebrew,' from all which, to my certain knowledge, I acquit the other. Og
may write against the king, if he pleases, so long as he drinks for him,
and his writings will never do the government so much harm, as his
drinking does it good; for true subjects will not be much perverted by
his libels; but the wine-duties rise considerably by his claret. He has
often called me an atheist in print; I would believe more charitably of
him, and that he only goes the broad way, because the other is too
narrow for him. He may see, by this, I do not delight to meddle with his
course of life, and his immoralities, though I have a long bead-roll of
them. I have hitherto contented myself with the ridiculous part of him,
which is enough, in all conscience, to employ one man; even without the
story of his late fall at the Old Devil, where he broke no ribs, because
the hardness of the stairs could reach no bones; and, for my part, I do
not wonder how he came to fall, for I have always known him heavy: the
miracle is, how he got up again. I have heard of a sea captain as fat as
he, who, to escape arrests, would lay himself flat upon the ground, and
let the bailiffs carry him to prison, if they could. If a messenger or
two, nay, we may put in three or four, should come, he has friendly
advertisement how to escape them. But to leave him, who is not worth any
further consideration, now I have done laughing at him,--would every man
knew his own talent, and that they, who are only born for drinking,
would let both poetry and prose alone!" This was the last distinct and
prolonged animadversion which our author bestowed upon his corpulent

Soon after this time Dryden wrote a biographical preface to Plutarch's
Lives, of which a new translation, by several hands, was in the press.
The dedication is addressed to the Duke of Ormond, the Barzillai of
"Absalom and Achitophel," whom Charles, after a long train of cold and
determined neglect, had in emergency recalled to his favour and his
councils. The first volume of Plutarch's Lives, with Dryden's Life of
the author, appeared in 1683.

About the same time, the king's express command engaged Dryden in a
work, which may be considered as a sort of illustration of the doctrines
laid down in the "Vindication of the Duke of Guise." It was the
translation of Maimbourg's "History of the League," expressly composed
to draw a parallel between the Huguenots of France and the Leaguers, as
both equal enemies of the monarchy. This comparison was easily
transferred to the sectaries of England, and the association proposed by
Shaftesbury. The work was published with unusual solemnity of title-page
and frontispiece; the former declaring that the translation was made by
his Majesty's command; the latter representing Charles on his throne,
surrounded by emblems expressive of hereditary and indefeasible
right.[39] The dedication to the king contains sentiments which savour
strongly of party violence, and even ferocity. The forgiving disposition
of the king is, according to the dedicator, the encouragement of the
conspirators. Like Antaeus they rise refreshed from a simple overthrow.
"These sons of earth are never to be trusted in their mother element;
they must be hoisted into the air, and strangled." Thus exasperated were
the most gentle tempers in these times of doubt and peril. The rigorous
tone adopted, confirms the opinion of those historians who observe,
that, after the discovery of the Rye-house Plot, Charles was fretted out
of his usual debonair ease, and became more morose and severe than had
been hitherto thought consistent with his disposition.

This translation was to be the last service which Dryden was to render
his good-humoured, selfish, and thoughtless patron. While the laureate
was preparing for the stage the opera of "Albion and Albanius," intended
to solemnise the triumph of Charles over the Whigs, or, as the author
expressed it, the double restoration of his sacred Majesty, the king
died of an apoplexy upon the 6th February 1684-5. His death opened to
many, and to Dryden among others, new hopes, and new prospects, which
were, in his instance, doomed to terminate in disappointment and
disgrace. We may therefore pause, and review the private life of the
poet during the period which has occupied our last Sections.

The vigour and rapidity with which Dryden poured forth his animated
satire, plainly intimates, that his mind was pleased with the exercise
of that formidable power. It was more easy for him, he has himself told
us, to write with severity, than with forbearance; and indeed, where is
the expert swordsman, who does not delight in the flourish of his
weapon? Neither could this self-complacent feeling be much allayed, by
the vague and abusive ribaldry with which his satire was repaid. This
was natural to the controversy, was no more than he expected and was
easily retorted with terrible interest. "As for knave," says he, "and
sycophant and rascal, and impudent, and devil, and old serpent, and a
thousand such good morrows, I take them to be only names of parties; and
could return murderer, and cheat, and whig-napper, and sodomite; and, in
short, the goodly number of the seven deadly sins, with all their
kindred and relations, which are names of parties too; but saints will
be saints in spite of villainy." With such feelings, we may believe
Dryden's rest was little disturbed by the litter of libels against

"Sons of a day just buoyant on the flood,
Then numbered with the puppies in the mud."

But he who keenly engages in political controversy must not only
encounter the vulgar abuse, which he may justly contemn, but the altered
eye of friends, whose regard is chilled, or alienated. That Dryden
sustained such misfortune we cannot doubt, when he informs us, that, out
of the large party in opposition, comprehending, doubtless, many men of
talent and eminence, who were formerly familiar with him, he had, during
the course of a whole year, only spoken to four, and to those but
casually and cursorily, and only to express a wish, that the times might
come when the names of Whig and Tory might be abolished, and men live
together as they had done before they were introduced.

Neither did the protecting zeal of his party-friends compensate for the
loss of those whom Dryden had alienated in their service. True it is,
that a host of Tory rhymers came forward with complimentary verses to
the author of "Absalom and Achitophel," and of "The Medal." But of all
payment, that in kind is least gratifying to a poverty-struck bard, and
the courtly patrons of Dryden were in no haste to make him more
substantial requital. A gratuity of an hundred broad pieces is said to
have been paid him by Charles for one of his satires; but no permanent
provision was made for him. He was coolly left to increase his pittance
by writing occasional pieces; and it was probably with this view that he
arranged for publication a miscellaneous collection of poetry, which he
afterwards continued. It was published for Tonson in 1683-4, and
contained several versions of Epistles from Ovid, and translations of
detached pieces of Virgil, Horace, and Theocritus, with some smaller
pieces by Dryden himself, and a variety of poems by other hands. The
Epistles had appeared in 1680, in a version of the original by several
hands, to which Dryden also contributed an introductory discourse on
translation. Contrary to our author's custom, the miscellany appeared
without either preface or dedication.

The miscellany, among other minor poems of Dryden, contained many of his
occasional prologues and epilogues, the composition of which his
necessity had rendered so important a branch of income, that, in the
midst of his splendour of satirical reputation, the poet was obliged to
chaffer about the scanty recompence which he drew from such petty
sources. Such a circumstance attended the commencement of his friendship
with Southerne. That poet then opening his dramatic career with the play
of the "Loyal Brother," came, as was usual, to request a prologue from
Dryden, and to offer him the usual compliment of five guineas. But the
laureate demurred, and insisted upon double the sum, "not out of
disrespect," he added, "to you, young man; but the players have had my
goods too cheap." Hence Southerne, who was peculiarly fortunate in his
dramatic revenue, is designed by Pope as

"Tom sent down to raise
The price of prologues and of plays."[40]

It may seem surprising that Dryden should be left to make an object of
such petty gains, when, labouring for the service of government, he had
in little more than twelve months produced both Parts of "Absalom and
Achitophel," "The Medal," "Mac-Flecknoe," "_Religio Laici_" and "The
Duke of Guise." But this was not the worst; for, although his pension as
poet-laureate was apparently all the encouragement which he received
from the crown, so ill-regulated were the finances of Charles, so
expensive his pleasures, and so greedy his favourites, that our author,
shortly after finishing these immortal poems, was compelled to sue for
more regular payment of that very pension, and for a more permanent
provision, in the following affecting Memorial, addressed to Hyde, Earl
of Rochester:--"I would plead," says he, "a little merit, and some
hazards of my life from the common enemies; my refusing advantages
offered by them, and neglecting my beneficial studies, for the king's
service; but I only think I merit not to starve. I never applied myself
to any interest contrary to your lordship's; and, on some occasions,
perhaps not known to you, have not been unserviceable to the memory and
reputation of my lord, your father.[41] After this, my lord, my
conscience assures me, I may write boldly, though I cannot speak to you.
I have three sons, growing to man's estate. I breed them all up to
learning, beyond my fortune; but they are too hopeful to be neglected,
though I want. Be pleased to look on me with an eye of compassion: some
small employment would render my condition easy. The king is not
unsatisfied of me; the duke has often promised me his assistance; and
your lordship is the conduit through which their favours pass. Either in
the customs, or the appeals of the excise, or some other way, means
cannot be wanting, if you please to have the will. _'Tis enough for one
age to have neglected Mr. Cowley, and starved Mr. Butler_; but neither
of them had the happiness to live till your lordship's ministry. In the
meantime, be pleased to give me a gracious and a speedy answer to my
present request of half a year's pension for my necessities. I am going
to write somewhat by his Majesty's command,[42] and cannot stir into the
country for my health and studies till I secure my family from want."

We know that this affecting remonstrance was in part successful; for
long afterwards, he says, in allusion to this period, "Even from a bare
treasury, my success has been contrary to that of Mr. Cowley; and
Gideon's fleece has there been moistened, when all the ground was dry."
But in the admission of this claim to the more regular payment of his
pension, was comprehended all Rochester's title to Dryden's gratitude.
The poet could not obtain the small employment which he so earnestly
solicited; and such was the recompense of the merry monarch and his
counsellors, to one whose productions had strengthened the pillars of
his throne, as well as renovated the literary taste of the nation.[43]

[1] Mulgrave was created lieutenant of Yorkshire and governor of Hull,
when Monmouth was deprived of these and other honours.

[2] See vol. x.

[3] This is objected to Dryden by one of his antagonists: "Nor could
ever Shimei be thought to have cursed David more bitterly, than he
permits his friend to blaspheme the Roman priesthood in his epilogue to
the 'Spanish Friar.' In which play he has himself acted his own part
like a true younger son of Noah, as may be easily seen in the first
edition of that comedy, which would not pass muster a second time
without emendations and corrections."--_The Revolter_, 1687, p. 29.

[4] See vol. ix.

[5] See vol. ix. This piece, entitled "Absalom's Conspiracy or the
Tragedy of Treason," is printed in the same volume.

[6] See vol. ix.

[7] Lord Grey says in his narrative, "After the dissolution of the
Oxford parliament, we were all very peaceably inclined, and nothing
passed amongst us that summer of importance, which I can call to mind: I
think my Lord Shaftesbury was sent to the Tower just before the long
vacation; and the Duke of Monmouth, Mr. Montague, Sir Thomas Armstrong,
and myself, went to Tunbridge immediately after his lordship's
imprisonment, where we laid aside the thoughts of disturbing the peace
of the government for those of diverting ourselves."

[8] He usually distinguishes Dryden by his "Rehearsal" title of Bayes;
and, among many other oblique expressions of malevolence, he has this

"To see the incorrigibleness of our poets in their pedantic manner,
their vanity, defiance of criticism, their rhodomontade, and poetical
bravado, we need only turn to our famous poet-laureat (the very Mr.
Bayes himself), in one of his latest and most valued pieces, writ many
years after the ingenious author of the 'Rehearsal' had drawn his
picture. 'I have been listening (says our poet, in his Preface to 'Don
Sebastian'), what objections had been made against the conduct of the
play, but found them all so trivial, that if I should name them, a true
critic would imagine that I played booty. Some are pleased to say the
writing is dull; but _aedatum habet de se loquatur._ Others, that the
double poison is unnatural; let the common received opinion, and
Ausonius's famous epigram, answer that. Lastly, a more ignorant sort of
creatures than either of the former maintain, that the character of
Dorax is not only unnatural, but inconsistent with itself; let them read
the play, and think again. A longer reply is what those cavillers
deserve not. But I will give them and their fellows to understand, that
the Earl of ---- was pleased to read the tragedy twice over before it
was acted and did me the favour to send me word, that I had written
beyond any of my former plays, and that he was displeased anything
should be cut away. If I have not reason to prefer his single judgment
to a whole faction, let the world be judge; for the opposition is the
same with that of Lucan's hero against an army, _concurrere bellum atque
virum_. I think I may modestly conclude,' etc.

"Thus he goes on, to the very end, in the self-same strain. Who, after
this, can ever say of the 'Rehearsal' author, that his picture of our
poet was overcharged, or the national humour wrong described?"

[9] See vol. ix.

[10] See some extracts from this piece, vol. ix.

"How well this Hebrew name with sense doth sound,
_A fool's my brother_,[11a] though in wit profound!
Most wicked wits are the devil's chiefest tools,
Which, ever in the issue, God befools.
Can they compare, vile varlet, once hold true,
Of the loyal lord, and this disloyal Jew?
Was e'er our English earl under disgrace,
And, unconscionable; put out of place?
Hath he laid lurking in his country-house
To plot rebellions, as one factious?
Thy bog-trot bloodhounds hunted have this stag,
Yet cannot fasten their foul fangs,--they flag.
Why didst not _thou_ bring in thy evidence
With them, to rectify the brave jury's sense,
And so prevent the _ignoramus_?--nay,
Thou wast cock-sure he wou'd he damned for aye,
Without thy presence;--thou wast then employed
To brand him 'gainst he came to be destroyed:
Forehand preparing for the hangman's axe,
Had not the witnesses been found so lax."

[11a] _Achi_, my brother, and _tophel_, a fool.--_Orig. Note_.

[12] Vol. ix.

[13] He was the son of Dr. John Pordage, minister of Bradfield expelled
his charge for insufficiency in the year 1646. Among other charges
against him were the following, which, extraordinary as they are, he
does not seem to have denied:

"That he hath very frequent and familiar converse with angels.

"That a great dragon came into his chamber with a tail of eight yards
long, four great teeth, and did spit fire at him; and that he contended
with the dragon.

"That his own angel came and stood by him while he was expostulating
with the dragon; and the angel came in his own shape and fashion, the
same clothes, bands, and cuffs, the same bandstrings; and that his angel
stood by him and upheld him.

"That Mrs. Pordage and Mrs. Flavel had their angels standing by them
also, Mrs. Pordage singing sweetly, and keeping time upon her breast;
and that his children saw the spirits coming into the house, and said,
Look there, father; and that the spirits did after come into the
chamber, and drew the curtains when they were in bed.

"That the said Mr. Pordage confessed, that a strong enchantment was upon
him, and that the devil did appear to him in the shape of Everard, and
in the shape of a fiery dragon; and the whole roof of the house was full
of spirits."--_State Trials_.

[14] How little Dryden valued these nicknames appears from a passage in
the "Vindication of the Duke of Guise:"--"Much less am I concerned at
the noble name of Bayes; that is a brat so like his own father, that he
cannot be mistaken for anybody else. They might as reasonably have
called Tom Sternhold Virgil, and the resemblance would have held as
well." Vol. vii.

"As when a swarm of gnats at eventide
Out of the fennes of Allan doe arise,
Their murmuring small trompetts sownden wide,
Whiles in the aire their clustring army flies,
That as a cloud doth seeme to dim the skies;
No man nor beast may rest or take repast
For their sharp wounds and noyous injuries,
Till the fierce northern wind with blustring blast
Doth blow them quite away, and in the ocean cast."

"How finely would the sparks be caught to-day,
Should a Whig poet write a Tory play,
And you, possessed with rage before, should send
Your random shot abroad and maul a friend?
For you, we find, too often hiss and clap,
Just as you live, speak, think, and fight--by hap.
And poets, we all know, can change, like you,
And are alone to their own interest true;
Can write against all sense, nay even their own:
The vehicle called _pension_ makes it down.
_No fear of cudgels_, where there's hope of bread;
A well-filled paunch forgets a _broken head_."

[17] I quote the passage at length, as evincing the difference between
Dryden's taste in comedy and that of Shadwell:--

"I have endeavoured to represent variety of humours (most of the persons
of the play differing in their characters from one another), which was
the practice of Ben Jonson, whom I think all drammatick poets ought to
imitate, though none are like to come near; he being the onely person
that appears to me to have made perfect representation of human life:
most other authors that I ever read, either have wilde romantick tales,
wherein they strein love and honour to that ridiculous height, that it
becomes burlesque; or in their lower comedies content themselves with
one or two humours at most, and those not near so perfect characters as
the admirable Jonson; always made, who never wrote comedy without seven
or eight considerable humours. I never saw one, except that of
Falstaffe, that was, in my judgment, comparable to any of Jonson's
considerable humours. You will pardon this digression when I tell you,
he is the man, of all the world, I most passionately admire for his
excellency in drammatick poetry.

"Though I have known _some of late so insolent to say_, that Ben Jonson
wrote his best playes without wit, imagining, that all the wit playes
consisted in bringing two persons upon the stage to break jest, and to
bob one another, which they call repartie, not considering, that there
is more wit and invention required in the finding out good humour and
matter proper for it, then in all their smart reparties; for, in the
writing of a humour, a man is confined not to swerve from the character,
and obliged to say nothing but what is proper to it; but in the playes
which have been wrote of late, there is no such thing as perfect
character, but the two chief persons are most commonly a swearing,
drinking, whoring ruffian for a lover, and impudent, ill-bred tomrig for
a mistress, and these are the fine people of the play; and there is that
latitude in this, that almost anything is proper for them to say; but
their chief subject is bawdy, and profaneness, which they call brisk
writing, when the most dissolute of men, that relish those things well
enough in private, are choked at 'em in publick: and, methinks, if there
were nothing but the ill manners of it, it should make poets avoid that
indecent way of writing."--_Preface to the Sullen Lovers_.

Lest this provocation should be insufficient, the Prologue of the same
piece has a fling at heroic plays. The poet says he has

"No kind romantic lover in his play
To sigh and whine out passion, such as may
Charm waiting-women with heroic chime,
And still resolve to live and die in rhyme;
Such as your ears with love and honour feast,
And play at crambo for three hours at least,
That fight and wooe in verse in the same breath,
And make similitude and love in death."

Whatever symptoms of reconciliation afterwards took place between the
poets, I greatly doubt if this first offence was ever cordially

[18] Vol. vii.

[19] See these offensive passages, vol. x.

[20] Vol. x.

"The laurel makes a wit, a brave, the sword;
And all are wise men at the Council board:
Settle's a coward, 'cause fool Otway fought him,
And Mulgrave is a wit, because I taught him."
_The Tory Poets_, 4to, 1682.

[22] Jonson is described as wearing a loose coachman's coat, frequenting
the Mermaid tavern, where he drunk seas of Canary, then reeling home to
bed, and, after a profuse perspiration, arising to his dramatic studies.
Shadwell appears, from the slight traits which remain concerning him, to
have followed, as closely as possible, the same course of pleasure and
of study. He was brutal in his conversation, and much addicted to the
use of opium, to which indeed he is said finally to have fallen a

[23] [I have inserted the word "first" because Scott's language is
ambiguous. In the list of the bookseller's collection in _3_ vols. 4to,
advertised in _Amphitryon_ (1690), "Mac-Flecknoe" and the Cromwell poem
do not appear. The later plays, however, soon gave material for another
volume, and in this 4-vol. edition, advertised in _Love Triumphant_,
1694, both poems figure.--ED.]

[24] Vol. x.

[25] See some specimens of these poems, vol. ix.

[26] Vol. vi.; vol. x

[27] In a satire against Settle, dated April 1682, entitled, "A
Character of the True-blue Protestant Poet," the author exclaims, "One
would believe it almost incredible, that any out of Bedlam should think
it possible, a yesterday's fool, an errant knave, a despicable coward,
and a prophane atheist, should be to-day by the same persons, a Cowley,
a man of honour, an hero, and a zealous upholder of the Protestant cause
and interest."

[28] In the "Deliverance," an address to the Prince of Orange, published
about 9th February 1689:--

"Alas! the famous Settle, Durfey, Tate,
That early propped the deep intrigues of state,
Dull Whiggish lines the world could ne'er applaud,
While your swift genius did appear abroad:
And then, great Bayes, whose yet unconquered pen
Wrote with strange force as well of beasts as men,
Whose noble genius grieved from afar,
Because new worlds of Bayes did not appear,
Now to contend with the ambitious elf,
Begins a civil war against himself," etc.

[29] In 1702, probably in the capacity of civic-laureate, he wrote
"_Carmen Irenicum_," upon the union of the two East India companies; and
long afterward, in 1717, he is mentioned by Dennis as still the city

[30] He published a translation of the tenth satire of Juvenal, in the
preface to which he rails plentifully against Dryden.

[31] [The omission of Marston here is remarkable, because no satirist
exhibits this extraordinary roughness of versification more glaringly.
Scott can hardly have read him.--ED.]

I infer, that the want of harmony was intentional, from these
expressions: "It is not for every one to relish a true and natural
satire; being of itself, besides the nature and inbred bitterness and
tartness of particulars, both hard of conceit and harsh of style, and
therefore cannot but be unpleasing both to the unskilful and
over-musical ear; the one being affected with only a shallow and easy,
the other with a smooth and current, disposition."--_Postscript to
Hall's Satires_.

[32] In "Venice Preserved," the character of the foolish senator
Antonio, now judiciously omitted in the representation was said to be
meant for Shaftesbury. But Crowne's "City Politics" contained the most
barefaced exhibition of all the popular leaders, including Shaftesbury,
College the Protestant joiner, Titus Oates, and Sir William Jones. The
last is described under the character of Bartoline, with the same
lisping imperfect enunciation which distinguished the original. Let us
remark, however, to the honour of Charles II., that in "Sir Courtly
Nice," another comedy which Crowne, by his express command, imitated
from the Spanish, the furious Tory is ridiculed in the character of
Hothead, as well as the fanatical Whig under that of Testimony.

[33] See the Prologues and Epilogues in vol. x.

[34] The concealed partiality of Charles towards Monmouth survived even
the discovery of the Rye-house Plot. He could not dissemble his
satisfaction upon seeing him after his surrender, and pressed his hand
affectionately.--See Monmouth's Diary in _Wellwood's Memorials_, p. 322.

[35] Carte, in his "life of the Duke of Ormond," says, that Monmouth's
resolutions varied from submission to resistance against the king,
according to his residence with the Duchess at Moor-park, who schooled
him to the former, or with his associates and partisans in the city, who
instigated him to more desperate resolutions.

[36] This Dryden might learn from Mulgrave, who mentions in his Memoirs,
as a means of Monmouth's advancement, the "great friendship which the
Duke of York had openly professed to his wife, a lady of wit and
reputation, who had both the ambition of making her husband
considerable, and the address of succeeding in it, by using her interest
in so friendly an uncle, whose design I believe was only to convert her.
Whether this familiarity of theirs was contrived or only connived at by
the Duke of Monmouth himself, is hard to determine. But I remember,
that, after these two princes had become declared enemies, the Duke of
York one day told me, with some emotion, as conceiving it a new mark of
his nephew's insolence, that he had forbidden his wife to receive any
more visits from him; at which I could not help frankly replying, that
I, who was not used to excuse him, yet could not hold from doing it in
that case, wishing his highness might have no juster cause to complain
of him. Upon which the duke, surprised to find me excuse his and my own
enemy, changed the discourse immediately."--_Memoirs_, p. 13.

I have perused letters from Sir Gideon Scott of Highchester to the
Duchess of Monmouth, recommending a prudent and proper attention to the
Duke of York: and this advice she probably followed; for, after her
husband's execution, James restored to her all her family estates.

[37] Bought by Mr. Luttrell, 11th April 1683. See it in vol. x. It is
expressly levelled against "The Duke of Guise," and generally against
Dryden as a court poet. I may, however be wrong in ascribing it to

[38] I observe Anthony Wood, as well as Mr. Malone, suppose Hunt and the
Templar associated in the Reflections to be the same person. But in the
"Vindication of the Duke of Guise" Shadwell and they are spoke of as
three distinct persons.

[39] See vol. xvii. In this edition I have retained a specimen of a
translation which our author probably executed with peculiar care;
selecting it from the account of the barricades of Paris, as
illustrating the tragedy of "The Duke of Guise."

[40] [This story is told with great variation of figures. Johnson
mentions two and three guineas as the old and new prices; others give
four and six.--ED.]

[41] Probably alluding to having defended Clarendon in public company;
for nothing of the kind occurs in Dryden's publications. [It is not
impossible that the New Year's Day Poem (1662) to the Lord Chancellor is
partly referred to here.--ED.]

[42] Probably the translation of "_Religio Laici_."

[43] [Some important evidence has come to light since Scott wrote, which
shows that the response to Dryden's petitions and the reward of his
services was not so insignificant as appears from the text, though it
was meagre enough. The facts were not known fully even to Macaulay, and
his ignorance enabled him, in perfect honesty, to make the case against
Dryden, for supposed venal apostasy, stronger than it might otherwise
appear. The documents referred to were discovered by Mr. Peter
Cunningham and by Mr. Charles Beville Dryden, the latter of whom
communicated his discovery to Mr. Robert Bell. As the facts are
undoubted, and Macaulay's ignorance of them equally so, it seems a
little remarkable that a reviewer of the little book on Dryden to which
I am too often obliged to refer my readers, should have announced his
adherence to "Macaulay and fact" rather than "Mr. Bell and sophistry."
It is not obvious how fact can be on the side of a writer who was, owing
to no fault of his own, ignorant of the fact, and whose ignorance
furnished him with his premises. The state of the case is this. Dryden's
application to Hyde produced the following Treasury warrant:--

--of the sume of Fifty pounds for one
quarter of the said Annuity or Pencon due at Mid-summer
1680. And by Vertue of his Ma'ts Lres of Privy
Scale directing an additionall Annuity of One hundred
pounds to him the said John Dryden to draw one or
more orders for payment of the sume of Twenty five
Pounds for one Quarter of the said Annuity due at
Lady day 1680. And let both the said sumes making
the sume of Seaventy Five Pounds be satisfyed out of
any his Ma'ts Treasure now or hereafter being and
remaining in the Receipt of Excheq'r not appropriated
to particular uses For w'ch this shal be your Warrant.

Whitehall Treasury Chambers May the 6th 1684

To our very Loving friend S'r Robert Rochester
howard Kn't Auditor of the Receipt J Ernle'r
of his Ma'ts Excheq'r. Ed Dering
Int'r. in officio Auditor Ste: ffox
Recpt see-ij Dni Regis Int'r in Oficio Clei Pell &c.
Mr. Dryden 75_l_.

It will be seen from this that independently of the appointment of the
laureateship, Dryden had in or before the year 1679 received an
additional pension of L100 a year. Confirmatory of this is a Treasury
order for the quarter of the same pension, due January 5th, 1679, and a
secret service payment of the same year, apparently referring to the
same pension. Moreover, on December 17th, 1683, Dryden was appointed
collector of customs in the port of London. The value of this is
unknown, but the sum of L5 for collecting the duties on cloth, which is
the only part of the emoluments as to which there is documentary
evidence, must have been a very small part of it. Now these two
appointments, the laureateship and the collectorship, were by
letters-patent, and were, in the usual course, confirmed on the
accession of the new Sovereign, though James characteristically cut out
the butt of sack. But the extra pension, which was merely granted by
letters of privy seal, lapsed, and it was absolutely within the
discretion of the new Sovereign to continue or discontinue it. It was
not formally regranted for a year, and this pension was mistaken by
Macaulay for an original one granted in payment of apostasy. That the
difference is very considerable must strike every one, and I for one
cannot see that the drawing of the obvious inference can be called
sophistry. If the time between the lapsing and the regranting seems
long, it has to be observed, first, that arrears to the date of the
lapse are carefully specified; secondly, that even in the case of the
laureateship patent, four whole months, as has been seen, elapsed
between the instruction for it and the patent itself. The circumstances
are, of course, consistent with the supposition that apostasy was made a
condition of the renewal; but they cannot be said to supply of
themselves any argument in favour of such a supposition.--ED.]


_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._

The accession of James II. to the British throne excited new hopes in
all orders of men. On the accession of a new prince, the loyal looked to
rewards, the rebellious to amnesty. The Catholics exulted in beholding
one of their persuasion attain the crown after an interval of two
centuries; the Church of England expected the fruits of her unlimited
devotion to the royal line; even the sectaries might hope indulgence
from a prince whose religion deviated from that established by law as
widely as their own. All, therefore, hastened, in sugared addresses, to
lament the sun which had set, and hail the beams of that which had
arisen. Dryden, among other expectants, chose the more honourable of
these themes; and in the "_Threnodia Augustalis_," at once paid a
tribute to the memory of the deceased monarch, and decently solicited
the attention of his successor. But although he had enjoyed personal
marks of the favour of Charles, they were of a nature too unsubstantial
to demand a deep tone of sorrow. "Little was the muses' hire, and light
their gain;" and "the pension of a prince's praise" is stated to have
been all their encouragement. Dryden, therefore, by no means sorrowed as
if he had no hope; but, having said all that was decently mournful over
the bier of Charles, tuned his lyrics to a sounding close in praise of

About the same time, Dryden resumed, with new courage, the opera of
"Albion and Albanius," which had been nearly finished before the death
of Charles. This was originally designed as a masque, or emblematical
prelude to the play of "King Arthur;" for Dryden, wearied with the
inefficient patronage of Charles, from whom he only "received fair
words," had renounced in despair the task of an epic poem, and had
converted one of his themes, that of the tale of Arthur, into the
subject of a romantic drama. As the epic was to have been adapted to the
honour and praise of Charles and his brother, the opera had originally
the same political tendency. "Albion and Albanius" was a sort of
introductory masque, in which, under a very thin veil of allegory,
first, the restoration of the Stuarts to the throne, and, secondly,
their recent conquest over their Whig opponents, were successively
represented. The death of Charles made little alteration in this piece:
it cost but the addition of an apotheosis; and the opera concluded with
the succession of James to the throne, from which he had been so nearly
excluded. These topics were however temporary; and, probably from the
necessity of producing it while the allusions were fresh and obvious,
"Albion and Albanius" was detached from "King Arthur," which was not in
such a state of forwardness. Great expense was bestowed in bringing
forward this piece, and the scenery seems to have been unusually
perfect; particularly, the representation of a celestial phenomenon,
actually seen by Captain Gunman of the navy, whose evidence is quoted in
the printed copies of the play.[1] The music of "Albion and Albanius"
was arranged by Grabut, a Frenchman, whose name does not stand high as a
composer. Yet Dryden pays him some compliments in the preface of the
piece, which were considered as derogatory to Purcel and the English
school, and gave great offence to a class of persons at least as
irritable as their brethren the poets. This, among other causes, seems
to have injured the success of the piece. But its death-blow was the
news of the Duke of Monmouth's invasion, which reached London on
Saturday, 13th June 1685, while "Albion and Albanius" was performing for
the sixth time: the audience broke up in consternation, and the piece
was never again repeated.[2] This opera was prejudicial to the company,
who were involved by the expense in a considerable debt, and never
recovered half the money laid out. Neither was it of service to our
poet's reputation, who had, on this occasion, to undergo the gibes of
angry musicians, as well as the reproaches of disappointed actors and
hostile poets. One went so far as to suggest, with some humour, that
probably the laureate and Grabut had mistaken their trade; the forming
writing the music, and the latter the verse.

We have now reached a remarkable incident in our author's life, namely,
his conversion to the Catholic faith, which took place shortly after the
accession of James II. to the British throne. The biographer of Dryden
must feel considerable difficulty in discussing the probable causes of
his change. Although this essay be intended to contain the life, not the
apology of the poet, it is the duty of the writer to place such
circumstances in view, as may qualify the strong prepossession at first
excited by a change of faith against the individual who makes it. This
prepossession, powerful in every case, becomes doubly so, if the step be
taken at a time when the religion adopted seems more readily to pave the
way for the temporal prosperity of the proselyte. Even where the grounds
of conviction are ample and undeniable, we have a respect for those who
suffer, rather than renounce a mistaken faith, when it is
discountenanced or persecuted. A brave man will least of all withdraw
himself from his ancient standard when the tide of battle beats against
it. On the other hand, those who at such a period admit conviction to
the better and predominant doctrine, are viewed with hatred by the
members of the deserted creed, and with doubt by their new brethren in
faith. Many who adopted Christianity in the reign of Constantine were
doubtless sincere proselytes, but we do not find that any of them have
been canonised. These feelings must be allowed powerfully to affect the
mind, when we reflect that Dryden, a servant of the court and zealously
attached to the person of James, to whom he looked for the reward of
long and faithful service, did not receive any mark of royal favour
until he professed himself a member of the religion for which that king
was all but an actual martyr. There are other considerations, however,
greatly qualifying the conclusions which might be drawn from these
suspicious circumstances, and tending to show, that Dryden's conversion
was at least in a great measure effected by sincere conviction. The
principal clew to the progress of his religious principles is to be
found in the poet's own lines in "The Hind and the Panther," and may, by
a very simple commentary, be applied to the state of his religious
opinions at different periods of his life:--

"My thoughtless youth was winged with vain desires;
My manhood, long misled by wandering fires,
Followed false lights, and, when their glimpse was gone,
My pride struck out new sparkles of her own.
Such was I, such by nature still I am;
Be thine the glory, and be mine the shame!"

The "vain desires" of Dryden's "thoughtless youth" require no
explanation: they obviously mean, that inattention to religious duties
which the amusements of youth too frequently occasion. The "false
lights" which bewildered the poet's manhood, were, I doubt not, the
puritanical tenets, which, coming into the world under the auspices of
his fanatical relations, Sir Gilbert Pickering and Sir John Driden, he
must have at least professed, but probably seriously entertained. It
must be remembered, that the poet was thirty years of age at the
Restoration, so that a considerable space of his full-grown manhood had
passed while the rigid doctrines of the fanatics were still the order of
the day. But the third state of his opinions, those "sparkles which his
pride struck out," after the delusions of puritanism had vanished; in
other words, those sentiments which he imbibed after the Restoration,
and which immediately preceded his adoption of the Catholic faith,
cannot be ascertained without more minute investigation. We may at the
outset be easily permitted to assume, that the adoption of a fixed creed
of religious principles was not the first business of our author, when
that merry period set him free from the rigorous fetters of fanaticism.
Unless he differed more than we can readily believe from the public
feeling at that time, Dryden was satisfied to give to Caesar the things
that were Caesar's, without being in a hurry to fulfil the counterpart
of the precept. Foremost in the race of pleasure, engaged in labours
alien from serious reflection, the favourite of the most lively and
dissolute nobility whom England ever saw, religious thoughts were not,
at this period, likely to intrude frequently upon his mind, or to be
encouraged when they did so. The time, therefore, when Dryden began
seriously to compare the doctrines of the contending sects of
Christianity, was probably several years after the Restoration, when
reiterated disappointment, and satiety of pleasure, prompted his mind to
retire within itself, and think upon hereafter. The "_Religio Laici_"
published in 1682, evinces that, previous to composing that poem, the
author had bestowed serious consideration upon the important subjects of
which it treats: and I have postponed the analysis of it to this place,
in order that the reader may be able to form his own conjecture from
what faith Dryden changed when he became a Catholic.

The "_Religio Laici_" has indeed a political tendency, being written to
defend the Church of England against the sectaries: it is not therefore,
so much from the conclusions of the piece, as from the mode of the
author's deducing these conclusions, that Dryden's real opinions may he
gathered;--as we learn nothing of the bowl's bias from its having
reached its mark, though something may be conjectured by observing the
course which it described in attaining it. From many minute particulars,
I think it almost decisive, that Dryden, when he wrote the "_Religio
Laici_," was sceptical concerning revealed religion. I do not mean, that
his doubts were of that fixed and permanent nature, which have at
different times induced men, of whom better might have been hoped, to
pronounce themselves freethinkers on principle. On the contrary, Dryden
seems to have doubted with such a strong wish to believe, as,
accompanied with circumstances of extrinsic influence, led him finally
into the opposite extreme of credulity. His view of the doctrines of
Christianity, and of its evidence, were such as could not legitimately
found him in the conclusions he draws in favour of the Church of
England; and accordingly, in adopting them, he evidently stretches his
complaisance towards the national religion, while perhaps in his heart
he was even then disposed to think there was no middle course between
natural religion and the Church of Rome. The first creed which he
examines is that of Deism; which he rejects, because the worship of one
sole deity was not known to the philosophers of antiquity, and is
therefore obviously to be ascribed to revelation. Revelation thus
proved, the puzzling doubt occurs, whether the Scripture, as contended
by Calvinists, was to be the sole rule of faith, or whether the rules
and traditions of the Church are to be admitted in explanation of the
holy text. Here Dryden does not hesitate to point out the inconveniences
ensuing from making the sacred page the subject of the dubious and
contradictory commentary of the laity at large: when

"The common rule was made the common prey,
And at the mercy of the rabble lay;
The tender page with horny fists was galled,
And he was gifted most that loudest bawled;
The spirit gave the doctoral degree,
And every member of a company
Was of his trade and of the Bible free."

This was the rule of the sectaries,--of those whose innovations seemed,
in the eyes of the Tories, to be again bursting in upon monarchy and
episcopacy with the strength of a land-flood. Dryden, therefore, at
once, and heartily, reprobates it. But the opposite extreme of admitting
the authority of the Church as omnipotent in deciding all matters of
faith, he does not give up with the same readiness. The extreme
convenience, nay almost necessity, for such authority, is admitted in
these remarkable lines:

"Such an omniscient church we _wish_ indeed;
_'Twere worth both Testaments, cast in the Creed._"

A wish, so forcibly expressed, shows a strong desire on the part of the
poet to be convinced of the existence of what he so ardently desired.
And the argument which Dryden considers as conclusive against the
existence of such an omniscient church, is precisely that which a subtle
Catholic would find little trouble in repelling. If there be such a
church, says Dryden, why does it not point out the corruption of the
canon, and restore it where lost? The answer is obvious, providing that
the infallibility of the church be previously assumed; for where can the
necessity of restoring or explaining Scripture, if God has given, to
Pope and Council, the inspiration necessary to settle all doubts in
matters of faith? Dryden must have perceived where this argument led
him, and he rather compounds with the difficulty than faces it. The
Scripture, he admits, must be the rule on the one hand; but, on the
other, it was to be qualified with the traditions of the earlier ages,
and the exposition of learned men. And he concludes, boldly enough:

"Shall I speak plain, and, in a nation free,
Assume an honest layman's liberty?
I think, according to my little skill,
To my own mother-church submitting still,
That many have been saved, and many may,
Who never heard this question brought in play.
The unlettered Christian, who believes in gross,
Plods on to heaven, and ne'er is at a loss;
For the strait gate would be made straiter yet,
Were none admitted there but men of wit."

This seems to be a plain admission, that the author was involved in a
question from which he saw no very decided mode of extricating himself;
and that the best way was to think as little as possible upon the
subject. But this was a sorry conclusion for affording firm foundation
in religious faith.

Another doubt appears to have puzzled Dryden so much, as to lead him
finally to the Catholic faith for its solution. This was the future fate
of those who never heard the gospel preached, supposing belief in it
essential to salvation:

"Because a general law is that alone,
Which must to all, and every where, be known."

Dryden, it is true, founds upon the mercy of the Deity a hope, that the
benefit of the propitiatory sacrifice of our Mediator may be extended to
those who knew not of its power. But the creed of St. Athanasius stands
in the poet's road; and though he disposes of it with less reverence to
the patriarch than is quite seemly, there is an indecision, if not in
his conclusion, at least in his mode of deducing it, that shows an apt
inclination to cut the knot, and solve the objection of the Deist, by
alleging, that belief in the Christian religion is an essential
requisite to salvation.

If I am right in these remarks, it will follow, that Dryden never could
be a firm or steady believer in the Church of England's doctrines. The
arguments, by which he proved them, carried him too far; and when he
commenced a teacher of faith, or when, as he expresses it, "his pride
struck out new sparkles of its own," at that very time, while in words
he maintained the doctrines of his mother-church, his conviction really
hovered between natural religion and the faith of Rome. It is remarkable
that his friends do not seem to have considered the "_Religio Laici_" as
expressive of his decided sentiments; for Charles Blount, a noted
free-thinker, in consequence of that very work, wrote a deistical
treatise in prose, bearing the same title, and ascribed it with great
testimony of respect to "his much-honoured friend, John Dryden,
Esquire."[3] Mr. Blount, living in close habits with Dryden, must have
known perfectly well how to understand his polemical poem; and, had he
supposed it was written under a deep belief of the truth of the English
creed, can it be thought he would have inscribed to the author a tract
against all revelation?[4] The inference is, therefore, sufficiently
plain, that the dedicator knew that Dryden was sceptical on the subject,
on which he had, out of compliment to Church and State, affected a
conviction; and that his "_Religio Laici_" no more inferred a belief in
the doctrines of Christianity, than the sacrifice of a cock to
Esculapius proved the heathen philosopher's faith in the existence of
that divine leech. Thus far Dryden had certainly proceeded. His
disposition to believe in Christianity was obvious, but he was
bewildered in the maze of doubt in which he was involved; and it was
already plain, that the Church, whose promises to illuminate him were
most confident, was likely to have the honour of this distinguished
proselyte. Dryden did not, therefore, except in outward profession,
abandon the Church of England for that of Rome, but was converted to the
Catholic faith from a state of infidelity, or rather of Pyrrhonism. This
is made more clear by the words of Dryden, from which it appears that,
having once admitted the mysterious doctrines of the Trinity and of
redemption, so incomprehensible to human reason, he felt no right to
make any further appeal to that fallible guide:

"Good life be now my task; my doubts are done;
What more could fright my faith than three in one?
Can I believe Eternal God could lie
Disguised in mortal mould, and infancy?
That the great Maker of the world could die?
And after that trust my imperfect sense,
Which calls in question his omnipotence?"

From these lines it may be safely inferred, that Dryden's sincere
acquiescence in the more abstruse points of Christianity did not long
precede his adoption of the Roman faith. In some preceding verses it
appears, how eagerly he received the conviction of the Church's
infallibility as affording that guide, the want of whom he had in some
degree lamented in the "_Religio Laici_:"

"What weight of ancient witness can prevail,
If private reason hold the public scale?
But, gracious God, how well dost thou provide
For erring judgments an unerring guide!
Thy throne is darkness in the abyss of light,
A blaze of glory that forbids the sight.
O teach me to believe thee, thus concealed,
And search no farther than thyself revealed;
But her alone for my director take,
Whom thou hast promised never to forsake!"

We find, therefore, that Dryden's conversion was not of that sordid kind
which is the consequence of a strong temporal interest; for he had
expressed intelligibly the imagined _desiderata_ which the Church of
Rome alone pretends to supply, long before that temporal interest had an
existence. Neither have we to reproach him, that, grounded and rooted in
a pure Protestant creed, he was foolish enough to abandon it for the
more corrupted doctrines of Rome. He did not unloose from the secure
haven to moor in the perilous road; but, being tossed on the billows of
uncertainty, he dropped his anchor in the first moorings to which the
winds, waves, and perhaps an artful pilot, chanced to convey his bark.
We may indeed regret, that, having to choose between two religions, he
should have adopted that which our education, reason, and even
prepossessions, combine to point out as foully corrupted from the
primitive simplicity of the Christian Church. But neither the Protestant
Christian, nor the sceptic philosopher, can claim a right to despise the
sophistry which bewildered the judgment of Chillingworth, or the toils
which enveloped the active and suspicious minds of Bayle and of Gibbon.
The latter, in his account of his own conversion to the Catholic faith,
fixes upon the very arguments pleaded by Dryden, as those which appeared
to him irresistible. The early traditions of the Church, the express
words of the text, are referred to by both as the grounds of their
conversion; and the works of Bossuet, so frequently referred to by the
poet, were the means of influencing the determination of the
philosopher.[5] The victorious argument to which Chillingworth himself
yielded, was, "that there must be somewhere an infallible judge, and the
Church of Rome is the only Christian society, which either does or can
pretend to that character."

It is also to be observed, that towards the end of Charles II.'s reign,
the High Churchmen and the Catholics regarded themselves as on the same
side in political questions, and not greatly divided in their temporal
interests. Both were sufferers in the Plot, both were enemies of the
sectaries, both were adherents of the Stuarts.

Alternate conversion had been common between them, so early as since
Milton made a reproach to the English universities of the converts to
the Roman faith daily made within their colleges; of those sheep,

"Whom the grim wolf with privy paw
Daily devours apace and nothing said."

In approaching Dryden, therefore, a Catholic priest had to combat few of
those personal prejudices which, in other cases, have been impediments
to their making converts. The poet had, besides, before him the example
of many persons both of rank and talent, who had adopted the Catholic

Such being the disposition of Dryden's mind, and such the peculiar
facilities of the Roman Churchmen in making proselytes, it is by no
means to be denied, that circumstances in the poet's family and
situation strongly forwarded his taking such a step. His Wife, Lady
Elizabeth, had for some time been a Catholic; and though she may be
acquitted of any share in influencing his determination, yet her new
faith necessarily brought into his family persons both able and disposed
to do so. His eldest and best beloved son, Charles, is also said, though
upon uncertain authority, to have been a Catholic before his father, and
to have contributed to his change.[6] Above all, James his master, to
whose fortunes he had so closely attached himself, had now become as
parsimonious of his favour as his Church is of salvation, and restricted
it to those of his own sect. It is more than probable, though only a
conjecture, that Dryden might be made the subject of those private
exhortations, which in that reign were called _closeting_; and,
predisposed as he was, he could hardly be supposed capable of resisting
the royal eloquence. For, while pointing out circumstances of proof,
that Dryden's conversion was not made by manner of bargain and sale, but
proceeded upon a sincere though erroneous conviction, it cannot be
denied, that his situation as poet-laureate, and his expectations from
the king, must have conduced to his taking his final resolution. All I
mean to infer from the above statement is, that his interest and
internal conviction led him to the same conclusion.

If we are to judge of Dryden's sincerity in his new faith, by the
determined firmness with which report retained it through good report
and bad report we must allow him to have been a martyr, or at least a
confessor, in the Catholic cause. If after the Revolution, like many
greater men, he had changed his principles with the times, he was not a
person of such mark as to be selected from all the nation, and punished
for former tenets. Supported by the friendship of Rochester, and most of
the Tory nobles who were active in the Revolution, of Leicester, and
many Whigs, and especially of the Lord-Chamberlain Dorset, there would
probably have been little difficulty in his remaining poet-laureate, if
he had recanted the errors of Popery. But the Catholic religion, and the
consequent disqualifications, was an insurmountable obstacle to his
holding that or any other office under government; and Dryden's
adherence to it, with all the poverty, reproach, and even persecution
which followed the profession, argued a deep and substantial conviction
of the truth of the doctrines it inculcated. So late as 1699, when an
union, in opposition to King William, had led the Tories and Whigs to
look on each other with some kindness, Dryden thus expresses himself in
a letter to his cousin, Mrs. Steward: "The court rather speaks kindly of
me, than does anything for me, though they promise largely; and perhaps
they think I will advance as they go backward, in which they will be
much deceived: for I can never go an inch beyond my conscience and my
honour. If they will consider me as a man who has done my best to
improve the language, and especially the poetry, and will be content
with my acquiescence under the present government, and forbearing satire
on it, that I can promise, because I can perform it: but I can neither
take the oaths, nor forsake my religion; because I know not what Church
to go to, if I leave the Catholic: they are all so divided amongst
themselves in matters of faith, necessary to salvation, and yet all
assuming the name of Protestants. May God be pleased to open your eyes,
as he has opened mine! Truth is but one, and they who have once heard of
it, can plead no excuse if they do not embrace it. But these are things
too serious for a trifling letter."[7] If, therefore, adherence to the
communion of a falling sect, loaded too at the time with heavy
disqualifications, and liable to yet more dangerous suspicions, can be
allowed as a proof of sincerity, we can hardly question that Dryden was,
from the date of his conviction, a serious and sincere Roman Catholic.

The conversion of Dryden did not long remain unrewarded,[8] nor was his
pen suffered to be idle in the cause which he had adopted. On the 4th of
March 1685-6, an hundred pounds a year, payable quarterly, was added to
his pension:[9] and probably he found himself more at ease under the
regular and economical government of James, than when his support
depended on the exhausted exchequer of Charles. Soon after the granting
of this boon, he was employed to defend the reasons of conversion to the
Catholic faith, alleged by Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, which, together
with two papers on a similar subject, said to be found in Charles II.'s
strong box. James had with great rashness given to the public.
Stillingfleet, now at the head of the champions of the Protestant faith,
published some sharp remarks on these papers. Another hand, probably
that of a Jesuit, was employed to vindicate against him the royal
grounds of conversion; while to Dryden was committed the charge of
defending those alleged by the Duchess. The tone of Dryden's apology
was, to say the least, highly injudicious, and adapted to irritate the
feelings of the clergy of the established church, already sufficiently
exasperated to see the sacrifices which they had made to the royal cause
utterly forgotten, the moment that they paused in the extremity of their
devotion towards the monarch. The name of "Legion," which the apologist
bestows on his adversaries, intimates the committee of the clergy by
whom the Protestant cause was then defended; and the tone of his
arguments is harsh, contemptuous, and insulting. A raker up of the ashes
of princes, an hypocrite, a juggler, a latitudinarian, are the best
terms which he affords the advocate of the Church of England, in defence
of which he had so lately been himself a distinguished champion.
Stillingfleet returned to the charge; and when he came to the part of
the Defence written by Dryden, he did not spare the personal invective,
to which the acrimonious style of the poet-laureate had indeed given an
opening, "Zeal," says Stillingfleet, "in a new convert, is a terrible
thing, for it not only burns, but rages like the eruptions of Mount
Etna; it fills the air with noise and smoke, and throws out such a
torrent of living fire, that there is no standing before it." In another
passage, Stillingfleet talks of the "temptation of changing religion for
bread;" in another, our author's words, that

"Priests of all religions are the same," [10]

are quoted to infer, that he who has no religion may declare for any.
Dryden took his revenge both on Stillingfleet the author, and on Burnet,
whom he seems to have regarded as the reviser of this answer, in his
polemical poem of "The Hind and the Panther."

If we can believe an ancient tradition, this poem was chiefly composed
in a country retirement at Rushton, near his birth-place in Huntingdon
[Northamptonshire]. There was an embowered walk at this place, which,
from the pleasure which the poet took in it, retained the name of
Dryden's Walk; and here was erected, about the middle of last century,
an urn, with the following inscription: "In memory of Dryden, who
frequented these shades, and is here said to have composed his poem of
'The Hind and the Panther.'"[11]

"The Hind and the Panther" was written with a view to obviate the
objections of the English clergy and people to the power of dispensing
with the test laws, usurped by James II. A change of political measures,
which took place while the poem was composing, has greatly injured its
unity and consistence. In the earlier part of his reign, James
endeavoured to gain the Church of England, by fair means and flattery,
to submit to the remission which he claimed the liberty of granting to
the Catholics. The first part of Dryden's poem is written upon this
soothing plan; the Panther, or Church of England, is

"sure the noblest next the Hind,
And fairest offspring of the spotted kind.
Oh could her inborn stains be washed away,
She were too good to be a beast of prey."

The sects, on the other hand, are characterised, wolves, bears, boars,
foxes,--all that is odious and horrible in the brute creation. But ere
the poem was published, the king had assumed a different tone with the
established church. Relying upon the popularity which the suspension of
the penal laws was calculated to procure among the Dissenters, he
endeavoured to strengthen his party by making common cause between them
and the Catholics, and bidding open defiance to the Church of England.
For a short time, and with the most ignorant of the sectaries, this plan
seemed to succeed; the pleasure of a triumph over their ancient enemies
rendering them blind to the danger of the common Protestant cause.
During this interval the poem was concluded; and the last book seems to
consider the cause of the Hind and Panther as gone to a final issue, and
incapable of any amicable adjustment. The Panther is fairly resigned to
her fate:

"Her hour of grace was passed,"

and the downfall of the English hierarchy is foretold in that of the
Doves, who, in a subaltern allegory, represent the clergy of the
established church:

"Tis said, the Doves repented, though too late,
Become the smiths of their own foolish fate:
Nor did their owner hasten their ill hour,
But, sunk in credit, they decreased in power;
Like snows in warmth that mildly pass away,
Dissolving in the silence of decay."

In the preface, as well as in the course of the poem, Dryden frequently
alludes to his dispute with Stillingfleet; and perhaps none of his poems
contain finer lines than those in which he takes credit for the painful
exertion of Christian forbearance when called by injured feeling to
resent personal accusation:--

"If joys hereafter must be purchased here
With loss of all that mortals hold so dear,
Then welcome infamy and public shame,
And last, a long farewell to worldly fame!
'Tis said with ease; but, oh, how hardly tried
By haughty souls to human honour tied!
O sharp convulsive pangs of agonising pride!
Down then, rebel, never more to rise!
And what thou didst, and dost, so dearly prize,
That fame, that darling fame, make that thy sacrifice.
'Tis nothing thou hast given; then add thy tears
For a long race of unrepenting years:
'Tis nothing yet, yet all thou hast to give;
Then add those may-be years thou hast to live:
Yet nothing still: then poor and naked come,
Thy father will receive his unthrift home,
And thy blest Saviour's blood discharge the mighty sum."

Stillingfleet is, however, left personally undistinguished, but Burnet,
afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, receives chastisement in his stead. The
character of this prelate, however unjustly exaggerated, preserves many
striking and curious traits of resemblance to the original; and, as was
natural, gave deep offence to the party for whom it was drawn. For not
only did Burnet at the time express himself with great asperity of
Dryden, but long afterwards, when writing his history, he pronounced a
severe censure on the immorality of his plays, so inaccurately expressed
as to be applicable, by common construction to the author's private
character. From this coarse and inexplicit accusation, the memory of
Dryden was indignantly vindicated by his friend Lord Lansdowne.

It is also worth remarking, that in the allegory of the swallows,
introduced in the Third Part of "The Hind and the Panther," the author
seems to have had in his eye the proposal made at a grand consult of the
Catholics, that they should retire from the general and increasing
hatred of all ranks, and either remain quiet at home, or settle abroad.
This plan, which originated in their despair of James's being able to do
anything effectual in their favour, was set aside by the fiery
opposition of Father Petre, the martin of the fable told by the Panther
to the Hind.[12]

The appearance of "The Hind and the Panther" excited a clamour against
the author far more general than the publication of "Absalom and
Achitophel." Upon that occasion the offence was given only to a party,
but this open and avowed defence of James's strides towards arbitrary
power, with the unpopular circumstance of its coming from a new convert
to the royal faith, involved our poet in the general suspicion with
which the nation at large now viewed the slightest motions of their
infatuated monarch. The most noted amongst those who appeared to oppose
the triumphant advocate of the Hind, were Montague and Prior, young men
now rising into eminence. They joined to produce a parody entitled the
"Town and Country Mouse;" part of which Mr. Bayes is supposed to gratify
his old friends, Smith and Johnson, by repeating to them. The piece is,
therefore, founded upon the twice-told jest of the "Rehearsal." Of the
parody itself, we have given ample specimen in its proper place. There
is nothing new or original in the idea, which chiefly turns upon the
ridiculing the poem of Dryden, where religious controversy is made the
subject of dispute and adjustment between a Hind and a Panther, who vary
between their typical character of animals and their real character as
the Catholic and English Church. In this piece, Prior, though the
younger man, seems to have had by far the larger share. Lord
Peterborough, on being asked whether the satire was not written by
Montague in conjunction with Prior, answered, "Yes; as if I, seated in
Mr. Cheselden's chaise drawn by his fine horse, should say, _Lord!_ how
finely we draw this chaise!" Indeed, although the parody was trite and
obvious, the satirists had the public upon their side; and it now seems
astonishing with what acclamations this attack upon the most able
champion of James's faith was hailed by his discontented subjects.
Dryden was considered as totally overcome by his assailants; they deemed
themselves, and were deemed by others, as worthy of very distinguished
and weighty recompence;[13] and what was yet a more decisive mark, that
their bolt had attained its mark, the aged poet is said to have
lamented, even with tears, the usage he had received from two young men,
to whom he had been always civil. This last circumstance is probably
exaggerated. Montague and Prior had doubtless been frequenters of Will's
coffee-house, where Dryden held the supreme rule in criticism, and had
thus, among other rising wits, been distinguished by him. That he should
have felt their satire is natural, for the arrow flew with the wind, and
popularity amply supplied its deficiency in real vigour; but the reader
may probably conclude with Johnson, that Dryden was too much hackneyed
in political warfare to suffer so deeply from the parody, as Dr.
Lockier's anecdote would lead us to believe. "If we can suppose him
vexed," says that accurate judge of human nature, "we can hardly deny
him sense to conceal his uneasiness."

Although Prior and Montague were first in place and popularity, there
wanted not the usual crowd of inferior satirists and poetasters to
follow them to the charge. "The Hind and the Panther" was assailed by a
variety of pamphlets, by Tom Brown and others, of which an account, with
specimens perhaps more than sufficient, is annexed to the notes on the
poem in this edition. It is worth mentioning, that on this, as on a
former occasion, an adversary of Dryden chose to select one of his own
poems as a contrast to his latter opinions. The "_Religio Laici_" was
reprinted, and carefully opponed to the various passages of "The Hind
and the Panther," which appeared most contradictory to its tenets. But
while the Grub-street editor exulted in successfully pointing out the
inconsistency between Dryden's earlier and later religious opinions, he
was incapable of observing, that the change was adopted in consequence
of the same unbroken train of reasoning, and that Dryden, when he wrote
the "_Religio Laici_" was under the impulse of the same conviction,
which, further prosecuted, led him to acquiesce in the faith of Rome.

The king appears to have been hardly less anxious to promote the
dispersion of "The Hind I and the Panther," than the Protestant party to
ridicule the piece and its author. It was printed about the same time at
London and in Edinburgh, where a printing-press was maintained in
Holyrood House, for the dispersion of tracts favouring the Catholic
religion. The poem went rapidly through two or three editions; a
circumstance rather to be imputed to the celebrity of the author, and to
the anxiety which foes, as well as friends, entertained to learn his
sentiments, than to any disposition to acquiesce in his arguments.

But Dryden's efforts in favour of the Catholic cause were not limited to
this controversial poem. He is said to have been at first employed by
the court, in translating Varillas's "History of Heresies," a work held
in considerable estimation by the Catholic divines. Accordingly, an
entry to that purpose was made by Tonson in the Stationers' books, of
such a translation made by Dryden at his Majesty's command. This
circumstance is also mentioned by Burnet, who adds, in very coarse and
abusive terms, that the success of his own remarks having destroyed the
character of Varillas as an historian, the disappointed translator
revenged himself by the severe character of the Buzzard, under which the
future Bishop of Sarum is depicted in "The Hind and the Panther."[14]
The credulity of Burnet, especially where his vanity was concerned was
unbounded; and there seems room to trace Dryden's attack upon him,
rather to some real or supposed concern in the controversy about the
Duchess of York's papers, so often alluded to in the poem, than to the
commentary on Varillas, which is not once mentioned. Yet it seems
certain that Dryden entertained thoughts of translating "The History of
Heresies;" and, for whatever reason, laid the task aside. He soon after
was engaged in a task, of a kind as unpromising as remote from his
poetical studies, and connected, in the same close degree, with the
religious views of the unfortunate James II. This was no other than the
translation of "The Life of St. Francis Xavier," one of the last adopted
saints of the Catholic Church, at least whose merits and supposed
miracles were those of a missionary. Xavier is perhaps among the latest
also, whose renown for sanctity, and the powers attending it, appears to
have been extensive even while he was yet alive.[15] Above all, he was
of the order of Jesuits, and the very saint to whom Mary of Este had
addressed her vows, in hopes to secure a Catholic successor to the
throne of England.[16] It was, therefore, natural enough, that Dryden
should have employed himself in translating the life of a saint, whose
virtues must at that time have appeared so peculiarly meritorious; whose
praises were so acceptable to his patroness; and whose miracles were
wrought for the credit of the Catholic Church, within so late a period,
besides, the work had been composed by Bartoli, in Portuguese; and by
Bouhours, in French. With the merits of the latter we are well
acquainted; of the former, Dryden speaks highly in the dedication. It
may perhaps be more surprising, that the present editor should have
retained this translation, than that Dryden should have undertaken it.
But surely the only work of this very particular and enthusiastic
nature, which the modern English language has to exhibit, was worthy of
preservation, were it but as a curiosity. The creed and the character of
Catholic faith are now so much forgotten among us (popularly speaking),
that, in reading the "Life of Xavier," the Protestant finds himself in a
new and enchanted land. The motives, and the incidents and the
doctrines, are alike new to him, and, indeed, occasionally form a
strange contrast among themselves. There are few who can read, without a
sentiment of admiration, the heroic devotion with which, from the
highest principle of duty, Xavier exposes himself to hardship, to
danger, to death itself, that he may win souls to the Christian faith.
The most rigid Protestant, and the most indifferent philosopher, cannot
deny to him the courage and patience of a martyr, with the good sense,
resolution, ready wit, and address of the best negotiator, that ever
went upon a temporal embassy. It is well that our admiration is
qualified by narrations so monstrous, as his actually restoring the dead
to life;[17] so profane, as the inference concerning the sweating
crucifix;[18] so trivial and absurd, as a crab's fishing up the saint's
cross, which had fallen into the sea; and,[19] to conclude, so shocking
to humanity, as the account of the saint passing by the house of his
ancestors, the abode of his aged mother, on his road to leave Europe for
ever, and conceiving he did God good service in denying himself the
melancholy consolation of a last farewell.[20] Altogether, it forms a
curious picture of the human mind, strung to a pitch of enthusiasm,
which we can only learn from such narratives: and those to whom this
affords no amusement, may glean some curious particulars from the "Life
of Xavier," concerning the state of India and Japan, at the time of his
mission, as well as of the internal regulations and singular policy
adopted by the society, of which the saint was a member. Besides the
"Life of Xavier," Dryden is said to have translated Bossuet's
"Exposition of the Catholic Doctrine;" but for this we have but slight

Dryden's political and polemic discussions naturally interfered at this
period with his more general poetical studies. About the period of
James's accession, Tonson had indeed published a second volume of
Miscellanies, to which our poet contributed a critical preface, with
various translations from Virgil, Lucretius, and Theocritus and four

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