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It is written in quatrains, or heroick stanzas of four lines; a measure which he had learned from the Gondibert of Davenant, and which he then thought the most majestick that the English language affords, Of this stanza he mentions the encumbrances, encreased 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 confidered, 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 dramatick rhyme; and Howard, in the preface to a collection of plays, had censured his opinion. Dryden vindicated himself in his Dialogue on Dramatick 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 inconfistency; 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,
He was now so much distinguished, that in 1668 he succeeded Sir William Davenant as poet-laureat. The falary 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 conveniencies of life.
The same year he published his Effay on Dramatick 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
Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen, is a tragi-comedy. In 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 dispofition, 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 Marall 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 is an alteration of Shakspeare's play, made by Dryden in conjunction with Davenant, “ whom,” says he, “ I found of s« so quick a fancy, that nothing was pro
posed 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
The effect produced by the conjunction of these two powerful minds was, that to Shakspeare's monster Caliban is added a fister-monster Sicorax ; and a woman, who, in the original play, had never seen a 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 sculp: tures 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 understand
ing, without conversation. His being is “ in a twilight of sense, and some glimmer
ing of thought, which he can never fashion “ into wit or English. His style is boister
ous and rough-hewn, his rhyme incor
rigibly lewd, and his numbers perpetually “ harsh and ill-founding. 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!"