Imatges de pÓgina

Rehearsal: a farce which he is said to have written with the assistance of Butler, the author of Hudibras; Martin Clifford, of the Charter-house; and Dr. Sprat, the friend of Cowley, then his chaplain. Dryden and his friends laughed at the length of time, and the number of hands, employed upon this performance; in which, though by some artifice of action it yet keeps possession of the stage, it is not possible now to find anything that might not have been written without so long delay, or a confederacy so numerous.

To adjust the minute events of literary history is tedious and troublesome; it requires indeed no great force of understanding, but often depends upon inquiries which there is no opportunity of making, or is to be fetched from books and pamphlets not always at hand.

The Rehearsal was played in 1671,* and yet is represented as ridiculing passages in the Conquest of Granadat and Assignation, which were not published in 1678; in Marriage à-la-mode, published in 1673; and in Tyrannic Love, in 1677. These contradictions show how rashly satire is applied.

It is said that this farce was originally intended against Davenant, who, in the first draught, was characterized by the name of Bilboa. Davenant had been a soldier and an adventurer.

There is one passage in the Rehearsal still remaining, which seems to have related originally to Davenant. Bayes hurts his nose, and comes in with brown paper applied to the bruise; how this affected Dryden, does not appear. Davenant's nose had suffered such diminution by mishaps among the women, that a patch upon that part evidently denoted him.

It is said likewise that Sir Robert Howard was once meant. The design was probably to ridicule the reigning poet, whoever he might be.

Much of the personal satire, to which it might owe its first reception, is now lost or obscured. Bayes probably imitated the dress, and mimicked the manner, of Dryden: the cant words which are so often in his mouth may be supposed to have been Dryden's habitual phrases, or customary exclamations. Bayes, when he is to write, is blooded and purged; this, as Lamotte relates himself to have heard, was the real practice of the poet.

There were other strokes in the Rehearsal by which malice was gratified; the debate between Love and Honour, which keeps Prince Volscius in a single boot, is said to have alluded to the misconduct of the Duke of Ormond, who lost Dublin to the rebels while he was toying with a mistress.

The Earl of Rochester, to suppress the reputation of Dryden, took Settle into his protection, and endeavoured to persuade the public that its appro bation had been to that time misplaced. Settle was a while in high repu tation; his Empress of Morocco, having first delighted the town [1673], was carried in triumph to Whitehall, and played by the ladies of the court. Now was the poetical meteor at the highest: the next moment began its fall. Rochester withdrew his patronage; seeming resolved, says one of his biographers, to have a judgment contrary to that of the town;" perhaps being unable to endure any reputation beyond a certain height, even when he had himself contributed to raise it.

Neither critics nor rivals did Dryden much mischief, unless they gained from his own temper the power of vexing him, which his frequent bursts of resentment give reason to suspect. He is always angry at some past, or afraid of some future censure; but he lessens the smart of his wounds by the balm of his own approbation, and endeavours to repel the shafts of criticism by opposing a shield of adamantine confidence.

It was published in 1672.

The Conquest of Granada was published in 1672; The Assignation, in 1673; Marriage à-la-mode in the same year, and Tyrannic Love, in 1672, Alterations and additions also were made to the "Rehearsal.”

The perpetual accusation produced against him was that of plagiarism, against which he never attempted any vigorous defence; for though he was perhaps sometimes injuriously censured, he would, by denying part of the charge, have confessed the rest; and, as his adversaries had the proof in their own hands, he, who knew that wit had little power against facts, wisely left, in that perplexity which it generally produces, a question which it was his interest to suppress, and which, unless provoked by vindication, few were likely to examine osal

Though the life of a writer, from about thirty-five to sixty-three, may be supposed to have been sufficiently busied by the composition of eight-andtwenty pieces for the stage, Dryden found room in the same space for many other undertakings.

But how much soever he wrote, he was at least once suspected of writing more; for in 1679, a paper of verses, called "An Essay on Satire," was shown about in manuscript, by which the Earl of Rochester, the Duchess of Portsmouth, and others, were so much provoked, that, as was supposed (for the actors were never discovered), they procured Dryden, whom they suspected as the author, to be waylaid and beaten. This incident is mentioned by the Duke of Buckinghamshire, the true writer, in his "Art of Poetry" where he says of Dryden,

figno qual Though praised and beaten for another's rhymes, assonnomaisa His own deserve as great applause sometimes.



His reputation in time was such, that his name was thought necessary the success of every poetical or literary performance, and therefore he was engaged to contribute something, whatever it might be, to many publications. He prefixed the Life of Polybius to the translation of Sir Henry Sheers; and those of Lucian and Plutarch, to versions of their works by different hands. Of the English Tacitus he translated the first book; and, if Gordon be credited, translated it from the French. Such a charge can hardly be mentioned without some degree of indignation; but it is not, I suppose, so much to be inferred, that Dryden wanted the literature necessary to the perusal of Tacitus, as that, considering himself as hidden in a crowd, he had no awe of the public; and, writing merely for money, was contented to get it by the nearest way.

In 1680, the Epistles of Ovid being translated by the poets of the time, among which one was the work of Dryden, and another of Dryden and Lord Mulgrave, it was necessary to introduce them by a preface; and Dryden, who on such occasions was regularly summoned, prefixed a discourse upon translation, which was then struggling for the liberty that it now enjoys. Why it should find any difficulty in breaking the shackles of verbal interpretation, which must for ever debar it from elegance, it would be difficult to conjecture, were not the power of prejudice every day observed. The authority of Jonson, Sandys, and Holiday, had fixed the judgment of the nation; and it was not easily believed that a better way could be found than they had taken, though Fanshaw, Denham, Waller, and Cowley, had tried to give examples of a different practice.

In 1681, Dryden became yet more conspicuous by uniting politics with poetry, in the memorable satire called Absalom and Achitophel, written against the faction which, by Lord Shaftesbury's incitement, set the Duke of Monmouth at its head.


Of this poem, in which personal satire was applied to the support of public principles, and in which therefore every mind was interested, the reception was eager, and the sale so large, that my father, an old bookseller, told me, he had not known it equalled but by Sacheverell's trial.

The reason of this general perusal Addison has attempted to derive from

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the delight which the mind feels in the investigation of secrets; and thinks that curiosity to decipher the names procured readers to the poem. There is no need to inquire why those verses were read, which, to all the attractions of wit, elegance, and harmony, added the co-operation of all the factious passions, and filled every mind with triumph or resentment, strong s It could not be supposed that all the provocation given by Dryden would be endured without resistance or reply. Both his person and his party were exposed in their turns to the shafts of satire, which, though neither so well pointed, nor perhaps so well aimed, undoubtedly drew blood.etastedT

One of these poems is called Dryden's Satire on his Muse: ascribed, though, as Pope says, falsely, to Somers, who was afterwards chancellor. The poem, whosesoever it was, has much virulence, and some sprightliness. The writer tells all the ill that he can collect both of Dryden and his friends. The poem of Absalom and Achitophel had two answers, now both forgotten; one called Azaria and Hushai; the other Absalom senior. Of these hostile compositions, Dryden apparently imputes Absalom senior to Settle, by quoting in his verses against him the second line. Azaria and Hushai was, as Wood says, imputed to him, though it is somewhat unlikely that he should write twice on the same occasion. This is a difficulty which I cannot remove, for want of a minuter knowledge of poetical transactions.

The same year he published The Medal, of which the subject is a medal struck on Lord Shaftesbury's escape from a prosecution, by the ignoramus of a grand jury of Londoners.

In both poems he maintains the same principles, and saw them both attacked by the same antagonist. Elkanah Settle, who had answered Absalom, appeared with equal courage in opposition to The Medal, and published an answer called The Medal Reversed, with so much success in both encounters, that he left the palm doubtful, and divided the suffrages of the nation. Such are the revolutions of fame, or such is the prevalence of fashion, that the man whose works have not yet been thought to deserve the care of collecting them, who died forgotten in an hospital, and whose latter years were spent in contriving shows for fairs, and carrying an elegy or epithalamium, of which the beginning and end were occasionally varied, but the intermediate parts were always the same, to every house where there was a funeral or a wedding, might with truth have had inscribed upon his stone, y cher zuf

Here lies the Rival and Antagonist of Dryden.

Settle was, for his rebellion, severely chastised by Dryden under the name of Doeg, in the second part of Absalom and Achitophel; and was perhaps for his factious audacity made the city poet, whose annual office was to describe the glories of the Mayor's day. Of these bards he was the last, and seems not much to have deserved even this degree of regard, if it was paid to his political opinions: for he afterwards wrote a panegyric on the virtues of Judge Jeffreys; and what more could have been done by the meanest zealot for prerogative ?

Of translated fragments, or occasional poems, to enumerate the titles, or settle the dates, would be tedious, with little use. It may be observed, that, as Dryden's genius was commonly excited by some personal regard, he rarely writes upon a general topic.

Soon after the accession of King James, when the design of reconciling the nation to the Church of Rome became apparent, and the religion of the court gave the only efficacious title to its favours, Dryden declared himself a convert to popery. This at any other time might have passed with little censure. Sir Kenelm Digby embraced popery; the two Reynolds reciprocally converted one another;* and Chillingworth himself was a while so entangled { Dr. John Reynolds, who lived temp. Jac. I. was at first a zealous Papist, and his


in the wilds of controversy, as to retire for quiet to an infallible church. If men of argument and study can find such difficulties, or such motives, as may either unite them to the Church of Rome, or detain them in uncertainty, there can be no wonder that a man, who perhaps never inquired why he was a protestant, should by an artful and experienced disputant be made a papist, Toverborne by the sudden violence of new and unexpected arguments, or deceived by a representation which shows only the doubts on one part, and only the evidence on the other.

That conversion will always be suspected that apparently concurs with interest. He that never finds his error till it hinders his progress towards wealth or honour, will not be thought to love truth only for herself. Yet it may easily happen that information may come at a commodious time; and, as truth and interest are not by any fatal necessity at variance, that one may by accident introduce the other. When opinions are struggling into popularity, the arguments by which they are opposed or defended become more known; and he that changes his profession would perhaps have changed it before, with the like opportunities of instruction. This was the then state

of popery; every artifice was used to show it in its fairest form; and it must be owned to be a religion of external appearance sufficiently attractive.

It is natural to hope that a comprehensive is likewise an elevated soul, and that whoever is wise is also honest. I am willing to believe that Dryden, having employed his mind, active as it was, upon different studies, and filled it, capacious as it was, with other materials, came unprovided to the controversy, and wanted rather skill to discover the right than virtue to maintain it. But inquiries into the heart are not for man; we must now leave him to bais Judge.

The priests, having strengthened their cause by so powerful an adherent, were not long before they brought him into action. They engaged him to defend the controversial papers found in the strong box of Charles the Second; and, what yet was harder, to defend them against Stillingfleet.

With hopes of promoting popery, he was employed to translate Maim1bourg's History of the League; which he published with a large introduction. His name is likewise prefixed to the English Life of Francis Xavier; but I know not that he ever owned himself the translator. Perhaps the use of his name was a pious fraud, which however seems not to have had much effect; for neither of the books, I believe, was ever popular.

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The version of Xavier's Life is commended by Brown, in a pamphlet not written to flatter; and the occasion of it is said to have been, that the queen, when she solicited a son, made vows to him as her tutelary saint. BoHe was supposed to have undertaken to translate Varillas's History of Heresies; and, when Burnet published remarks upon it, to have written an Answer; upon which Burnet makes the following observation : Jean I have been informed from England, that a gentleman, who is famous both for poetry and several other things, had spent three months in translating M. Varillas's History; but that, as soon as my Reflections appeared, he discontinued his labour, finding the credit of his author was gone. Now, if he thinks it is recovered by his Answer, he will perhaps go on with his translation; and this may be, for aught I know, as good an entertainment for him as the conversation that he had set on between the Hinds and Panthers and all the rest of animals, for whom M. Varillas may serve well enough as an author: and this history and that poem are such extraordinary things of their kind, that it will be but suitable to see the author of the worst poem become likewise the translator of the worst history that the age has brother William as earnest a Protestant; but by mutual disputation each converted the other. Vide Fuller's Church History, p. 47, book X.

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produced. If his grace and his wit improve both proportionably, he will hardly find that he has gained much by the change he has made, from having no religion, to choose one of the worst. It is true, he had somewhat to sink from in matter of wit; but, as for his morals, it is scarcely possible for him to grow a worse man than he was. He has lately wreaked his malice on me for spoiling his three months labour; but in it he has done me all the honour that any man can receive from him, which is to be railed at by him. If I had ill-nature enough to prompt me to wish a very bad wish for him, it should be, that he would go on and finish his translation. By that it will appear, whether the English nation, which is the most competent judge in this matter, has, upon the seeing our debate, pronounced in M. Varillas's favour, or in mine. It is true, Mr. D. will suffer a little by it; but at least will serve to keep him in from other extravagances; and if he gains little honour by this work, yet he cannot lose so much by it as he has done by his last employment."

Having probably felt his own inferiority in theological controversy, he was desirous of trying whether, by bringing poetry to aid his arguments, he might become a more efficacious defender of his new profession. To reason in verse was, indeed, one of his powers; but subtilty and harmony, united, are still feeble, when opposed to truth.

Actuated therefore by zeal for Rome, or hope of fame, he published the Hind and Panther [1687], a poem in which the Church of Rome, figured by the milk-white Hind, defends her tenets against the Church of England, represented by the Panther, a beast beautiful, but spotted.

A fable, which exhibits two beasts talking theology, appears at once full of absurdity; and it was accordingly ridiculed in the City Mouse and Country Mouse, a parody, written by Montague, afterwards Earl of Halifax, and Prior, who then gave the first specimen of his abilities.

The conversion of such a man, at such a time, was not likely to pass uncensured. Three dialogues were published by the facetious Thomas Brown, of which the two first were called Reasons of Mr. Bayes's changing his Religion and the third, the Reasons of Mr. Haynes the Player's Conversion and Re-conversion. The first was printed in 1688, the second not till 1690, the third in 1691. The clamour seems to have been long continued, and the subject to have strongly fixed the public attention.

In the two first dialogues Bayes is brought into the company of Crites and Eugenius, with whom he had formerly debated on dramatic poetry. The two talkers in the third are Mr. Bayes and Mr. Haynes.

Brown was a man not deficient in literature, nor destitute of fancy; but he seems to have thought it the pinnacle of excellence to be a merry fellow; and therefore laid out his powers upon small jests or gross buffoonery; so that his performances have little intrinsic value, and were read only while they were recommended by the novelty of the event that occasioned them.

These dialogues are like his other works: what sense or knowledge they contain is disgraced by the garb in which it is exhibited. One great source of pleasure is to call Dryden little Bayes. Ajax, who happens to be mentioned, is "he that wore as many cow-hides upon his shield as would have furnished half the king's army with shoe-leather."

Being asked whether he had seen the Hind and Panther, Crites answers : "Seen it! Mr. Bayes; why I can stir nowhere but it pursues me: it haunts me worse than a pewter-buttoned sergeant does a decayed cit. Sometimes I meet it in a bandbox, when my laundress brings home my linen; sometimes, whether I will or no, it lights my pipe at a coffee-house; sometimes it surprises me in a trunk-maker's shop; and sometimes it refreshes, my memory for me on the backside of a Chancery-lane parcel. For your

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