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The kindnesses which are first experienced are seldom forgotten. Pope always retained a grateful memory of Walsh's notice, and mentioned him in one of his latter pieces among those that had encouraged his juvenile studies.
aholm bapo Granville the polite,
Hem And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write.sod be
In his Essay on Criticism he had given him more splendid praise; and, in the opinion of his learned commentator, sacrificed a little of his judgment to his gratitude.to youb nude do zidi Hotel 1
The time of his death I have not learned. It must have happened between 1707, when he wrote to Pope; and 1711, when Pope praised him in his Essay. The epitaph makes him forty-six years old: if Wood's account be right, he died in 1709.
He is known more by his familiarity with greater men, than by anything done or written by himself.
His works are not numerous. In prose he wrote Eugenia, a Defence of Women; which Dryden honoured with a preface. To od n
Esculapius, or the Hospital of Fools, published after his deathing w A Collection of Letters and Poems, amorous and gallant, was published in the volumes called "Dryden's Miscellany, and some other occasional pieces.
To his Poems and Letters is prefixed a very judicious preface upon Epistolary Composition and Amorous Poetry.
In his Golden Age Restored, there was something of humour, while the facts were recent: but it now strikes no longer. In his imitation of Horace, the first stanzas are happily turned; and in all his writings there are pleasing passages. He has, however, more elegance than vigour, and seldom rises higher than to be pretty. to and boy
F the great poet whose life I am about to delineate, the curiosity 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 casual mention and uncertain tradition have supplied.
JOHN DRYDEN was born August 9, 1631, at Aldwinkle, near Qundle, the son of Erasmus Dryden of Tichmarsh; who was the third son of Sir Erasmus Dryden, Baronet, of Canons Ashby. All these places are in Northamptonshire; but the original stock of the family was in the county of Huntingdon.
He is reported by his last biographer, Derrick, to have inherited from his father an estate of two hundred a year, and to have been bred, as was said, an anabaptist. For either of these particulars no authority is given. Such a fortune ought to have secured him from that poverty which seems always to have oppressed him; or, if he had wasted it, to have made him ashamed of publishing his necessities. But though he had many enemies, who undoubtedly examined his life with a scrutiny sufficiently malicious, I do not remember that he is ever charged with waste of his patrimony. He was indeed sometimes reproached for his first religion. I am therefore inclined to believe that Derrick's intelligence was partly true, and partly
From Westminster 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 scholarships at Cambridge.*
Of his school performances has appeared only a poem on the death of Lord Hastings, composed with great ambition of such conceits as, notwithstanding the reformation begun by Waller and Denham, the example of Cowley still kept in reputation. Lord Hastings died of the small-pox; and his poet has made of the pustules first rosebuds, and then gems; at last exalts them into stars; and says,
No comet need foretell his change drew on,
Whose corpse might seem a constellation.
At the university he does not appear to have been eager of poetical distinction, or to have lavished his early wit either on fictitious subjects or public occasions. He probably considered, that he, who purposed to be an author, ought first to be a student. He obtained, whatever was the reason, no fellowship in the college. Why he was excluded cannot now be known, and it is vain to guess; had he thought himself injured, he knew how to complain. In the life of Plutarch he mentions his education in the college with gratitude; but, in a prologue at Oxford, he has these lines:
Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
Thebes did his green, unknowing youth engage:
It was not till the death of Cromwell, in 1658, that he became a public candidate for fame, by publishing Heroic Stanzas on the late Lord Protector; which, compared with the verses of Sprat and Waller on the same occasion, were sufficient to raise great expectations of the rising poet.
When the king was restored, Dryden, like the other panegyrists of usurpation, changed his opinion, or his profession, and published Astræa Redux; a poem on the happy Restoration and Return of his most sacred Majesty King Charles the Second.
The reproach of inconstancy was, on this occasion, shared with such numbers, that it produced neither hatred nor disgrace! If he changed, he changed with the nation. It was, however, not totally forgotten when his reputation raised him enemies.
The same year, he praised the new king in a second poem on his restoration. In the Astræa was the line,
An horrid stillness first invades the ear,
for which he was persecuted with perpetual ridicule, perhaps with more than was deserved. Silence is indeed mere privation; and, so considered, cannot invade; but privation likewise certainly is darkness, and probably cold; yet poetry has never been refused the right of ascribing effects or agency to them as to positive powers. No man scruples to say that darkness hinders him from his work; or that cold has killed the plants. Death is also privation; yet who has made any difficulty of assigning to Death a dart and the power of striking?
In settling the order of his works there is some difficulty; for, even when they are important enough to be formally offered to a patron, he does not commonly date his dedication; the time of writing and publishing is not always the same; nor can the first editions be easily found, if even from them could be obtained the necessary information.
The time at which his first play was exhibited is not certainly known, because it was not printed till it was, some years afterwards, altered and re
* He went off to Trinity College, and was admitted to a bachelor's degree in 1653.
vived; but since the plays are said to be printed in the order in which they were written, from the dates of some, those of others may be inferred; and thus it may be collected, that in 1663, in the thirty-second year of his life, he commenced a writer for the stage; compelled undoubtedly by necessity, for he appears never to have loved that exercise of his genius, or to have much pleased himself with his own dramas.
Of the stage, when he had once invaded it, he kept possession for many years; not indeed without the competition of rivals who sometimes prevailed, or the censure of critics, which was often poignant and often just; but with such a degree of reputation as made him at least secure of being heard, whatever might be the final determination of the public.
His first piece was a comedy called the "Wild Gallant." He began with no happy auguries; for his performance was so much disapproved, that he was compelled to recall it, and change it from its imperfect state to the form in which it now appears, and which is yet sufficiently defective to vindicate the critics.
I wish that there were no necessity of following the progress of his theatrical fame, or tracing the meanders of his mind through the whole series of his dramatic performances; it will be fit, however, to enumerate them, and to take especial notice of those that are distinguished by any peculiarity, intrinsic or concomitant; for the composition and fate of eight-and-twenty dramas include too much of a poetical life to be omitted.
In 1664, he published the "Rival Ladies," which he dedicated to the Earl of Orrery, a man of high reputation both as a writer and a statesman. In this play he made his essay of dramatic rhyme, which he defends, in his dedication, with sufficient certainty of a favourable hearing; for Orrery was himself a writer of rhyming tragedies.
He then joined with Sir Robert Howard in the "Indian Queen," a tragedy in rhyme. The parts which either of them wrote are not distinguished. The "Indian Emperor" was published in 1667. It is a tragedy in rhyme, intended for a sequel to Howard's "Indian Queen." Of this connexion notice was given to the audience by printed bills, distributed at the door; an expedient supposed to be ridiculed in the "Rehearsal," when Bayes tells how many reams he has printed, to instil into the audience some conception of his plot.
In this play is the description of Night, which Rymer has made famous by preferring it to those of all other poets.
The practice of making tragedies in rhyme was introduced soon after the Restoration, as it seems by the Earl of Orrery, in compliance with the opinion of Charles the Second, who had formed his taste by the French theatre; and Dryden, who wrote, and made no difficulty of declaring that he wrote only to please, and who perhaps knew that by his dexterity of versification he was more likely to excel others in rhyme than without it, very readily adopted his master's preference. He therefore made rhyming tragedies, till, by the prevalence of manifest propriety, he seems to have grown ashamed of making them any longer.
To this play is prefixed a very vehement defence of dramatic rhyme, in confutation of the preface to the "Duke of Lerma," in which Sir Robert Howard had censured it.
In 1667 he published "Annus Mirabilis, the Year of Wonders," which may be esteemed one of his most elaborate works.
It is addressed to Sir Robert Howard by a letter, which is not properly a dedication; and, writing to a poet, he has interspersed many critical observations, of which some are common, and some perhaps ventured without much consideration. He began, even now, to exercise the domination of
conscious genius, by recommending his own performance: "I am satisfied that as the prince and general [Rupert and Monk] are incomparably the best subjects I have ever had, so what I have written on them is much better than what I have performed on any other. As I have endeavoured to adorn my poem with noble thoughts, so much more to express those thoughts with elocution."
It is written in quatrains, or heroic stanzas of four lines; a measure which he had learned from the Gondibert of Davenant, and which he then thought the most majestic that the English language affords. Of this stanza he mentions the incumbrances, increased as they were by the exactness which the age required. It was, throughout his life, very much his custom to recommend his works by representation of the difficulties that he had encountered, without appearing to have sufficiently considered, that where there is no difficulty there is no praise.
There seems to be, in the conduct of Sir Robert Howard and Dryden towards each other, something that is not now easily to be explained. Dryden, in his dedication to the Earl of Orrery, had defended dramatic rhyme; and Howard, in the preface to a collection of plays, had censured his opinion. Dryden vindicated himself in his Dialogue on Dramatic Poetry: Howard, in his preface to the "Duke of Lerma, animadverted on the Vindication; and Dryden, in a preface to the Indian Emperor, replied to the Animadversions with great asperity, and almost with contumely. The dedication to this play is dated the year in which the "Annus Mirabilis " was published. Here appears a strange inconsistence; but Langbaine affords some help, by relating that the answer to Howard was not published in the first edition of the play, but was added when it was afterwards reprinted; and as the Duke of Lerma did not appear till 1668, the same year in which the dialogue was published, there was time enough for enmity to grow up between authors, who, writing both for the theatre, were naturally rivals.conto deliter enig will many theate He was now so much distinguished, that in 1668 he succeeded Sir William Davenant as poet-laureat. The salary of the laureat had been raised in favour of Jonson, by Charles the First, from an hundred marks to one hundred pounds a year, and a tierce of wine; a revenue in those days not inadequate to the conveniences of life.
The same year, he published his essay on Dramatic Poetry, an elegant and instructive dialogue, in which we are told, by Prior, that the principal character is meant to represent the Duke of Dorset. This work seems to have given Addison a model for his Dialogues upon Medals. 59
"Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen" (1668), is a tragi-comedy.onIn the preface he discusses a curious question, whether a poet can judge well of his own productions? and determines very justly, that, of the plan and disposition, and all that can be reduced to principles of science, the author may depend upon his own opinion; but that, in those parts where fancy predominates, self-love may easily deceive. He might have observed, that what is good only because it pleases, cannot be pronounced good till it has been found to please.
Sir Martin Marr-all" (1668) is a comedy, published without preface or dedication, and at first without the name of the author. Langbaine charges it, like most of the rest, with plagiarism; and observes, that the song is translated from Voiture, allowing however that both the sense and measure are exactly observed.
"The Tempest" (1670) is an alteration of Shakspeare's play, made by Dryden in conjunction with Davenant, "whom," says he, "I found of so quick a fancy, that nothing was proposed to him in which he could not suddenly produce a thought extremely pleasant and surprising and those first
thoughts of his, contrary to the Latin proverb, were not always the least happy; and as his fancy was quick, so likewise were the products of it remote and new. He borrowed not of any other; and his imaginations were such as could not easily enter into any other man.'
The effect produced by the conjunction of these two powerful minds was, that to Shakspeare's monster, Caliban, is added a sister-monster, Sycorax; and a woman, who, in the original play, had never seen à man, is in this brought acquainted with a man that had never seen a woman.
About this time, in 1673, Dryden seems to have had his quiet much disturbed by the success of the " Empress of Morocco," a tragedy written in rhyme by Elkanah Settle; which was so much applauded, as to make him think his supremacy of reputation in some danger. Settle had not only been prosperous on the stage, but, in the confidence of success, had published his play, with sculptures and a preface of defiance. Here was one offence added to another; and, for the last blast of inflammation, it was acted at Whitehall by the court-ladies.
Dryden could not now repress these emotions, which he called indignation, and others jealousy but wrote upon the play and the dedication such criticism as malignant impatience could pour out in haste.
Of Settle he gives this character: He's an animal of a most deplored understanding, without conversation. His being is in a twilight of sense, and some glimmering of thought which he can never fashion into wit or English. His style is boisterous and rough-hewn, his rhyme incorrigibly lewd, and his numbers perpetually harsh and ill-sounding. The little talent which he has, is fancy. He sometimes labours with a thought; but, with the pudder he makes to bring it into the world, 'tis commonly still-born; so that, for want of learning and elocution, he will never be able to express any thing either naturally or justly."
This is not very decent; yet this is one of the pages in which criticism prevails most over brutal fury. He proceeds: "He has a heavy hand at fools, and a great felicity in writing nonsense for them. Fools they will be in spite of him. His King, his two Empresses, his Villain, and his Subvillain, nay his Hero, have all a certain natural cast of the father-their folly was born and bred in them, and something of the Elkanah will be Af This
is Dryden's general declamation; I will not withhold from the reader a particular remark. Having gone through the first act, he says, conclude this act with the most rumbling piece of nonsense spoken yet:
olytuo To flattering lightning our feign'd smiles conform, 401042-475 Which, back'd with thunder, do but gild a storm. Conform a smile to lightning, make a smile imitate lightning, and flattering lightning: lightning sure is a threatening thing. And this lightning must gild a storm. Now, if I must conform by smiles to lightning, then my smiles must gild a storm too: to gild with smiles, is a new invention of gilding. And gild a storm by being backed with thunder. Thunder is part of the storm; so one part of the storm must help to gild another part, and help by backing; as if a man would gild a thing the better for being backed, or having a load upon his back. So that here is gilding by conforming, smiling, lightning, backing, and thundering. The whole is as if I should say thus: will make my counterfeit smiles look like a flattering stone-horse, which, being backed with a trooper, does but gild the battle. I am mistaken if nonsense is not here pretty thick sown. Sure the poet writ these two lines aboard some smack in a storm, and, being sea-sick, spewed up a good lump of clotted nonsense at once.
Here is perhaps a sufficient specimen; but as the pamphlet, though