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dedicated. Bayes, the principal character in the farce, was a good caricature of Dryden ; and that the satire might hit the right mark, Lacy, who acted Bayes, was instructed to imitate Dryden's gait, voice, manner, and usual style of dress. The play, after a stormy reception, completely triumphed and had an amazing run. Though Dryden must have been chagrined to behold his person and writings thus successfully ridiculed, he had the wisdom to say nothing at the time; but long afterwards he revenged himself on Buckingham, by holding him up to the public laughter as Zimri in Absalom and Achitophel. Besides this attack, he had to sustain a number of thrusts from writers of small note and smaller powers, many of whom were actuated by paltry feelings of envy. On these waspish assailants he bestowed very little notice, and that little was couched in a spirit of supreme contempt which well became him.
Though heroic plays continued to haunt the stage for some time, they never recovered from the blow inflicted by The Rehearsal,' and Dryden was in a great measure deterred from meddling with them again. The dramas which next flowed from his pen were, a tragic-comedy entitled * Marriage-a-la-mode,' containing much bad tragedy with some good comedy,— Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery,' of which the success, though small, was equal to the merits,—and • The Massacre of Amboyna,' a wretched piece of stupidity, written to excite popular odium against the Dutch. In 1673 he had the presumption to undertake the task of refining and remodelling 'The Paradise Lost,' by putting it into rhyme ! an exhibition of folly unequalled even by his preceding attack on Shakspeare. “The State of Innocence,' for so this precious production was styled, is an opera in which Adam and Eve are introduced outrageously in love with one another, and coquetting as expertly as the most dashing cavalier and most prudish belle in Charles' court. It is but fair to add that Dryden subsequently recanted his errors.
In addition to the success of “The Rehearsal, Dryden's love of the heroic drama had been much lessened by finding that every ranting declaimer could successfully imitate this style of writing. By the patronage of Rochester-now Dryden's enemy-Elkanah Little, a man of small parts but ambitious temper, was advanced to a short-lived rivalry with our author. To posterity it is amusing enough to contemplate the dexterity with which Rochester played off his puppet, and the ludicrous air of triumph assumed by this diminutive of nature ; but to "glorious John' himself it must have been extremely galling, especially as the nation and the universities, by some strange obliquity of judgment, were divided into tolerably equal parties on the merits of these illmatched rivals. It was in truth, · Hyperion to a Satyr. Rochester soon tired of Little, and set up Crowne in his stead, of whom in turn becoming weary, he patronized Otway, and not content with this mode of annoyance, he shortly afterwards made a gross attack on Dryden in his • Allusion to the tenth Satire of Horace,' bestowing on him the nickname of Poet Squob, which clung to him for many years. Το finish this quarrel we may add, that in 1679 on the publication of Lord Mulgrave's Essay on Satire, which contained a bitter attack on Rochester, this profligate nobleman, affirming Dryden to have been concerned in the attack, had the brutal cowardice to hire ruffians to way. lay and abuse him.
The causes we have mentioned, together with a minuter study of Shakspeare and our elder poets, had now opened Dryden's eyes to the faults of the heroic drama; and · Aurungzebe,' his next play, differs greatly from its predecessors, and is the last in which he submits to the trammels of rhyme. “All for Love,' which followed it, was avowedly written in imitation of Shakspeare's . Antony and Cleopatra.' The fineness of the story induced him, he tells us, “ to try his strength on the bow of Ulysses,” and the result has been a more correct, but much less interesting and poetic drama. To this succeeded Limberlam'-a wretched piece of obscenity, endured for three nights only,—“Troilus and Cressida,' another copy from Shakspeare, the great defects of which are redeemed by the excellence of a prose essay prefixed, . On the Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy,'—and The Spanish Friar,' by far the best of his comedies. At this time the nation was so distracted by the violent feuds of the protestant and popish parties, that even the drama was for a time forgotten. Dryden, who was in disgrace at court, seems to have had at first some leanings to the protestant side ; but his discontent vanished along with that of his patron, the earl of Mulgrave, and he now took an active part in behalf of the court. To this he was the more readily induced, by finding that Buckingham, Shadwell, Little, and others of his personal and literary enemies were of the opposite party. Having power on his side he was not the man to let slip an opportunity of at once distinguishing and revenging himself. In November, 1681, appeared the first part of • Absalom and Achitophel;' perhaps the most extraordinary political poem in this or any other language. Under the slight disguise of Hebrew names, he paints the characters of the chief men of the two parties : of course magnifying those attached to the court, while he overwhelms their opponents with the most fearful invective, or lacerates them with poignant ridicule. Whatever we may think of his justice, we cannot refuse our admiration of the talent he displays. There may be many better likenesses, but there never was a gallery of such finely executed portraits. If there be any fault it is in the conclusion,—to which, however, the nature of the poem and the circumstances of the times inevitably drove him. Its success was so great, that Dryden—to whom, in spite of his affected contempt for the opinion of the world, the incense of applause was the breath of lifefollowed it up by · The Medal,' in which the character of Shaftesbury was a second time portrayed with a happy malice, that must have been gall and wormwood to the unfortunate original. To both these poems answers were written by the Whig poets, though with more zeal than wit. Among the foremost of these opponents were Shadwell and Little; and in his • M-Flecknoe,' which appeared shortly afterwards—for he was not willing to let the new and terrible weapon he had begun to wield sleep inactive-Dryden concentrated on their unlucky heads the wrath which would have been scorching even if diffused among the whole crowd of confederates. Shadwell especially was filliped with a three-mann beetle,' in a style that would have driven most men to suicide. Not content with this, the lash was again applied to him, in a passage contributed by Dryden to the second part of Absalom and Achitophel, the body of which was written with considerable spirit by Nahum Tate. Having thus signalized himself as a satirist, Dryden next took
the weapon of argument, in a long poem entitled • Religio Laici,' containing many passages of conspicuous ability, and intended as a confession of his own religious creed and an orthodox defence of the church of England.
The death of Charles in 1685, seems, on the whole, to have been favourable to Dryden's circumstances, since in Charles's dissolute reign his pension was ill-paid, and no substantial return was made to him for the large services he had rendered with his pen. Among the crowd of sycophants who hastened to sacrifice to the rising sun,' Dryden distinguished hiniself by his · Threnodia Augustalis,' a gratulatory poem of considerable merit, and by “ Albion and Albanius,' an indifferent opera, which terminates with the ascent of James to the throne. But to gain the favour of a stern bigot like James, something more was necessary than empty praise, and Dryden, who had never shown so much attachment to any religion as to make him ashamed of embracing a new creed, entered the Romish communion. Much has been said to justify this change of profession, but the best excuse that can be given is, that he who doubts the truth of all religions, and is indifferent to religion itself, can be guilty of no great crime in assuming the most convenient. His conversion was rewarded by the addition of £100 a-year to his salary, in return for which he immortalized his own apostasy, by giving to the world the Hind and the Panther,' a long poem, in which the Roman Catholic church is typified as a 'milk-white hind,' the Church of England as a panther, and the various other sects as wolves, bears, boars, foxes, &c. It is written with his usual ability, and met with considerable success.
After the revolution, Dryden was under the necessity of resigning all his pensions and places, and had the additional mortification of being compelled to endure the pelting of a pitiful mob of poets and critics, whom his prudence alone prevented him from impaling. Not daring to enter the field as a political writer, he again resorted to the stage for subsistence, and in the four following years he produced · Don Sebastian,'-—' Amphitryon,'— King Arthur,' — Cleomenes,'and Love Triumphant,' his last play, which was acted in 1692, with very bad success. •Don Sebastian,' the first play which he wrote after the revolution, is decidedly the best of his dramatic performances. It seems as if conscious of the downfall of himself and of his party, he had collected all his energies to show that in literature at least he was still triumphant. The others are not very remarkable, except as proofs of the decided change which had taken place in his notions of dramatic beauty and propriety.
His circumstances in the decline of his life were probably more comfortable than might have been anticipated. He was patronized by many, who, equally with himself, were opposed to the court; his kinsmen were reconciled to him, and from several of the nobility he was in the habit of receiving liberal proofs of their esteem.
The best proof of this is to be found in the fact, that with the exception of a few prefaces, some detached translations, and an occasional copy of verses,' he
gave to the world nothing from 1692, until the publication of his great work, the translation of Virgil. This famous translation, “the
· His translation of Du Fresnoy's Art of Painting, to which was prefixed a Preface, drawing a parallel between Poetry and Painting, was however written in the intervals of translating Virgil. It is a work of some magnitude.
most noble and spirited,” says Pope, “that I know in any language," was published in July 1697. It is probable, we think, that Dryden, however much admired by literary men, would have been deprived of half the popularity he now enjoys, had it not been for the connection of his name with the Æneid, and its consequent familiarity in our school-boy days. Virgil was scarcely finished, when the world was astonished, if any thing from Dryden's pen could astonish it, by his poem of • Alexander's Feast. There has been a good deal of controversy as to the time occupied in the composition of this magnificent ode. The evidence seems pretty decisive that it was struck off in a single night; and to this conclusion the unity of the piece, the close connection of the trains of thought, and the fervency of the spirit which animates it, also leads. His next, and indeed his last publication of any consequence, was the Fables, modernizations of Chaucer, most beautifully executed, to which he added a version of the first book of Homer, whom he had some thoughts of translating. Towards the close of his life, he was bitterly attacked by Sir R. Blackmore, and Jeremy Collier, for the indecencies of many of his dramatic productions ; and it is pleasing to find, that having outlived the debauched age, for which most of his plays were written, he never atteinpted to answer the vehement and somewhat blustering accusations of Collier, but admitted their truth, and expressed his sorrow. The city knight, however, he chastised in a manner which his folly well deserved.
He had now been for sometime labouring under a complication of chronic diseases. The gout and the gravel had long embittered his existence, and more lately the erysipelas had seized one of his legs. In consequence of neglect, a slight inflammation on one of his toes became a gangrene. His medical attendant proposed amputation, but Dryden refused, and mortification taking place, he expired on Wedday morning, May 1st, 1700, at 3 o'clock. He was sensible almost to the last, and died professing his faith in the Roman Catholic church. His body was embalmed and lay in state at Physician's Hall, where a funeral oration was pronounced over his remains by Dr Garth on the 13th of May, after which they were conveyed to Westminster Abbey, preceded by a band of music, and attended by a numerous cavalcade of carriages. They were deposited between the graves of Chaucer and Cowley,-a worthy sepulture for such honoured clay.
It is a difficult matter to form a fair estimate of the talents and taste of a man whose style and habits of thought varied so frequently as those of Dryden. We have already seen, that after making his debut as an imitator of Cowley, he became the leader of a widely different school ; and that after many years and many triumphs had established his reputation, and given him the sway of a despot in the world of letters, he ventured upon another change, by adopting a simple and natural style of writing. Hence it happens, that unless strict regard be paid to the time at which his compositions were written, and to the Huctuations of his own and of the public taste, the attempt to form a clear and consistent estimate of his powers will be as fruitless as an attempt to fix the principles of a trading politician, or a poet-laureale. Nor is this the only source of difficulty: Dryden's necessities were constantly urgent, and compelled him to give to the world, for the sake of bread, many compositions which should have slept in oblivion,
for the sake of fame. What Gibbon said of Bayle, will apply with equal force to Dryden: “The inequality of his voluminous works is explained and excused, by his alternately writing for himself, for the booksellers, and for posterity; and if a severe critic reduce him to a single folio, the relic, like the books of the Sibyls, would become still more valuable."
The race of poets who preceded Dryden, and whom he supplanted, are too well-known to require any elaborate description of their character. Sir W. Scott appears to think that Donne, Cowley, and others of what has been termed the metaphysical school of poets, were his predecessors in public favour; and it is, no doubt, true, that they were in high fashion among the fantastic Euphuists of the court : but it is equally certain, that the nation at large clung with enthusiastic fondness to Shakspeare, and the bright stars of the Elizabethan era, until the civil wars banished all literary taste. Nor is it wonderful that it should be so. These extraordinary men wrote in a natural inartificial style, which comes home at once to the heart of the reader. They followed no rules of art, they cared not for canons of criticism,-but, seizing the inspiration of the moment, they allowed themselves to be carried away by it. In their page, imagination
“ Wantons as in her prime, and plays at will
We seldom stop in perusing them to admire the talents of the author, for we too are swept along by the full tide of his enthusiasm ; we feel as he feels,—we rejoice when he rejoices,—we weep
when he weeps. It is not until we have laid aside the book, and set ourselves calmly to examine into the causes of the emotion we have experienced, that we discover the excellence of the writer. It was this school which Dryden was destined to supplant. Had he only imbibed in his youth the taste for their beauties which characterized his maturest manhood, we firmly believe that his fine talents, even with all the opposition of the court, would have restored them to the favour in which they had been held before the civil war, and that our literature would never have known the long night which has overshadowed it, ever since the decline of the style which Dryden founded, and Pope carried to its highest point of perfection. We do not mean, that he would ever have rivalled his models; all that we intend is, that he would have produced works more honourable to himself than he has done. We should have had more fables and lyrics, and fewer Indian Emperors and Conquests of Granada. Unfortunately, however, it happened, that Charles, during his continental wanderings, had imbibed a taste for continental literature; and the nation, in the fit of drunken joy which followed the king's return, imitated him but too closely. Even had Dryden's judgment at that time led him to prefer a purer style, he was too much a man of the world to worship at a deserted altar, His wants and his love of popularity drove him into compliance with the ruling fashion; and although he acquired excellencies of which the earlier writers knew nothing, he lost more than he gained. He is indeed an abler versifier,—a more correct writer,--a more finished play-wright, and a more brilliant rhetorician, but he wants their unstudied grace—their exquisite touches of