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HARVAR UNIVERSITY

LIBRARY

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DRY D E N.

OF the great poet whofe life I am about to de

lineate, the curiofity which his reputation must excite will require a display more ample than can now be given. His contemporaries, however they reverenced his genius, left his life unwritten; and nothing therefore can be known beyond what ca fual mention and uncertain tradition have fupplied.

JOHN DRYDEN was born August 9, 1631, at Aldwinkle near Oundle, the fon of Erafmus Dryden of Tichmerfh; who was the third fon of Sir Erafmus Dryden, baronet, of Canons Afhby. All these places are in Northamptonshire; but the original flock of the family was in the county of Huntingdon.

He is reported, by his laft biographer, Derrick, to have inherited from his father an estate of two hundred a year, and to have been bred, as was faid, an Anabaptift. For either of thefe particulars no authority is given. Such a fortune ought to have secured him from that poverty which feems always to have oppreffed him; or, if he had wafted it, to have made him afhamed of publifhing his neceffities. But though he had many enemies, VOL. II.

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who undoubtedly examined his life with a fcrutiny fufficiently malicious, I do not remember that he is ever charged with waste of his patrimony. He was indeed fometimes reproached for his firft religion. I am therefore inclined to believe that Derrick's intelligence was partly true, and partly erro

neous..

From Weftminster School, where he was instructed as one of the king's scholars by Dr. Busby, whom he long after continued to reverence, he was in 1650 elected to one of the Westminster scholarfhips at Cambridge *.

Of his fchool performances has appeared only a poem on the death of Lord Haftings, compofed with great ambition of fuch conceits as, notwithftanding the reformation begun by Waller and Denham, the example of Cowley ftill kept in reputation. Lord Haftings died of the fmall- -pox; and his poet has made of the puftules first rosebuds, and then gems; at laft exalts them into ftars; and fays,

No comet need foretell his change drew on,
Whofe corpfe might feem a constellation.

At the university he does not appear to have been eager of poetical diftin&tion, or to have lavished his early wit either on fictitious fubjects or public occafions. He probably confidered, that he, who proposed to be an author, ought first to be a ftudent. He obtained, whatever was the reafon, no fellowship in the College. Why he was excluded cannot now be known, and it is vain to guefs; had he thought himself injured, he knew

*He went off to Trinity College, and was admitted to a Bache lor's Degree in 1653. H.

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