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The Dramatic Works of John Dryden Vol. I. - With a Life of the Author
by Sir Walter Scott
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THE

DRAMATIC WORKS

OF

JOHN DRYDEN

WITH A

LIFE OF THE AUTHOR

BY

SIR WALTER SCOTT, BART.

EDITED BY GEORGE SAINTSBURY

VOL. I.

EDINBURGH: WILLIAM PATERSON

1882



THE DRAMATIC WORKS

OF

JOHN DRYDEN



EDITOR'S PREFACE.

The best-edited book in the English language is, according to Southey, Wilkin's edition of Sir Thomas Browne. If Sir Walter Scott's "Dryden" cannot challenge this highest position, it certainly deserves the credit of being one of the best-edited books on a great scale in English, save in one particular,—the revision of the text. In reading it long ago, with no other object than to make acquaintance with Dryden; again, more recently and more minutely, for the purpose of a course of lectures which I was asked to deliver at the Royal Institution; and again, more recently and more minutely still, for the purposes of a monograph on the same subject in Mr. Morley's series of English Men of Letters, I have had tolerably ample opportunities of recognising its merits. It was therefore with pleasure that I found, on being consulted by the publisher of these volumes as to a re-issue of it, that Mr. Paterson was as averse as I was myself to any attempt to efface or to mutilate Scott's work. Neither the number, the order, nor the contents of Scott's eighteen volumes will be altered in any way. The task which I propose to myself is a sufficiently modest one, that of re-editing Scott's "Dryden," as—putting differences of ability out of question—he might have re-edited it himself had he been alive to-day; that is to say, to set right errors into which he fell either by inadvertence or deficiency of information, to correct the text in accordance with modern requirements, and to add the results of the students of Dryden during the last three quarters of a century in matter of text as well as of comment.

The first part of the plan requires no further remarks, and the last not much. No literary work of Dryden's of any great importance has been discovered since Scott's edition appeared. A few letters will have to be added, though I am sorry to say that I cannot promise my readers the satisfaction which Dryden students chiefly desire,—the satisfaction of reading, or at least knowing the contents of, the Knole correspondence. In reply to a request of mine, Lord Sackville has positively, though very courteously, refused to lift the embargo which his predecessors have placed on this, nor have my inquiries succeeded as yet in discovering any hitherto unpublished letters, though the present collection will for the first time present those which have been published in a complete form. I think that it may not be uninteresting for readers to have an opportunity of comparing with the undoubted work two plays, "The Mistaken Husband," and "The Modish Lovers," which good authorities have suspected to be possibly Dryden's. These will accordingly be given in the last volume of the plays. A bibliography of Dryden, and writers on Dryden, and a certain number of pieces justificatives of various kinds, will also be added, as well as notes, and where the subject seems to demand them, appendices on points of importance. These additional notes and appendices will be bracketed and signed ED., Dryden's own notes, which are rare, will be indicated by a D., and Scott's will stand without indication.

The principles upon which I have proceeded in re-editing the text require somewhat fuller explanation. Dryden never superintended any complete edition of his works, but on the other hand there is evidence in his letters that he bestowed considerable pains on them when they first passed through the press. The first editions have therefore in every case been followed, though they have been corrected in case of need by the later ones. But the adoption of this standard leaves unsettled the problem of orthography, punctuation, etc. I have adopted a solution of this which will not, I fear, be wholly agreeable to some of my friends. Capital letters, apostrophes, and the like, will be looked for in vain. It would, I need hardly say, have been much less trouble to put copies of the original editions into the hands of the printers, to bid them "follow copy," and to content myself with seeing that the reprint was faithful. The result would have been, to a very small number of professed students of English literature, an interesting example of the changes which printers' spelling underwent in the last forty years of the seventeenth century. But it would have been a nuisance and a stumbling-block to the ordinary reader, in whose way it is certainly not the business of the editor of a great English classic to throw stones of offence. Where a writer has written in a distinctly archaic form of language, as in the case of all English writers before the Renaissance, adherence to the original orthography is necessary and right. Even in the so-called Elizabethan age, where a certain archaism of phrase survives, the appreciation of temporal and local colour may be helped by such an adherence. But Dryden is in every sense a modern. His list of obsolete words is insignificant, of archaic phrases more insignificant still, of obsolete constructions almost a blank. If any journalist or reviewer were to write his to-morrow's leader or his next week's article in a style absolutely modelled on Dryden, no one would notice anything strange in it, except perhaps that the English was a good deal better than usual There can therefore be no possible reason for erecting an artificial barrier between him and his readers of to-day, especially as that barrier would be not only artificial but entirely arbitrary. I shall however return to this point in some prefatory remarks to the dramas.

Another problem which presented itself was the question of retaining the irregular stichometric division in some plays and passages which are not in verse. Scott has in such case generally printed them in prose, and with some hesitation I have, though not uniformly, followed him.

I have already received much help from divers persons, and I trust, dis faventibus, to acknowledge this and more at the end of my journey, in (to use a word for which a great writer of French fought hard) a "postface." In a work of magnitude such as the present, which can only be proceeded with pedetentim, the proverb about the relations of beginner and finisher is peculiarly applicable. For the present I shall confine myself to mentioning with the utmost thankfulness the kindness of Mr. E.W. Gosse, who has placed at my disposal an almost complete set of first editions of the plays and poems. One word must be said as to the Life which fills this first volume. Except in minor details, there is little to add to it. Any biographer of Dryden who is not carried away by the desire to magnify his office, must admit that Johnson's opening sentence as to the paucity of materials is still applicable.

In conclusion, I have but to repeat that in this edition it is not my ambition to put myself or my own writing forward, even to the extent ordinarily possible to an editor. In particular, my plan excludes indulgence in critical disquisitions, however tempting they may be. For such I must refer my readers to the monograph already mentioned. Occasionally where critical opinions of Scott's are advanced which seem demonstrably erroneous or imperfect, something of this nature will be found, but on the whole my object is to give the reader my author, and not what I have to say about him. The office of [Greek: neokoros] is a comparatively humble one in itself, but it is honourable enough when the shrine is at once the work and the monument of two such masters of English as Scott and Dryden.

GEORGE SAINTSBURY.

LONDON, July 8, 1882.



ADVERTISEMENT.

[Prefaced to Edition issued in 1808, edited by Sir Walter Scott.]

After the lapse of more than a century since the author's death, the Works of Dryden are now, for the first time, presented to the public in a complete and uniform edition. In collecting the pieces of one of our most eminent English classics,—one who may claim at least the third place in that honoured list, and who has given proofs of greater versatility of talent than either Shakespeare or Milton, though justly placed inferior to them in their peculiar provinces,—the Editor did not feel himself entitled to reject any part of his writings; even of those which reflect little honour on the age, by whose taste they were dictated. Had a selection been permitted, he would have excluded several of the Comedies, and some part of the Translations: but this is a liberty which has not lately been indulged to editors of classical poetry. Literary history is an important step in that of man himself; and the unseductive coarseness of Dryden is rather a beacon than a temptation.

In commencing this task, the Editor had hopes of friendly assistance, which might have rendered his toil more easy, and the result more accurate. Deprived of this by a concurrence of unlucky circumstances, he has both to dread the imperfection of his labours, and the consequence of perhaps an over-zeal to render his edition complete. In the first respect, although he has many thanks to return for information readily afforded, it has sometimes been received after the irrevocable operations of the printer had taken place.[1] On the second point, he may have been too lavish in historical notes, and entered too deeply into the secret history of the persons and times to which Dryden's satirical poems refer. But he has endeavoured to avail himself of all information, so soon as communicated, whether corrective or corroborative of his prior opinions; and the wish, not only to render intelligible, blanks, allusions, and feigned names, but to present, if possible, the very spirit and political character of Dryden's contemporaries, must be the excuse for intruding a few pages of political history and personal anecdote; which, after all, they, whose memory does not require such refreshment, may easily dispense with reading. In this last part of his task, the Editor has been greatly assisted by free access to a valuable collection of the fugitive pieces of the reigns of Charles II., James II., William III., and Queen Anne. This curious collection was made by Narcissus Luttrell, Esq., under whose name the Editor usually quotes it The industrious collector seems to have bought every poetical tract, of whatever merit, which was hawked through the streets in his time, marking carefully the price and date of the purchase. His collection contains the earliest editions of many of our most excellent poems, bound up, according to the order of time, with the lowest trash of Grub Street. It was dispersed on Mr. Luttrell's death; but a number of the volumes, referring chiefly to the latter part of Charles the Second's reign, have fortunately become the property of Mr. James Bindley of Somerset Place, who, with the utmost urbanity, permitted the Editor the unlimited use of these, and other literary curiosities in his valuable library.—It is so much a matter of course, with every adventurer in the field of antiquities, to acknowledge the liberality and kindness of Mr. Richard Heber, that the public would probably be surprised had his extensive literary treasures escaped contribution on this occasion, particularly as it contains several additional volumes of the Luttrell collection. To both gentlemen the Editor has to offer his public thanks; nor will he be tempted to dilate further on the liberality of the one, and the tried friendship of the other. It is possible, that these researches may, by their very nature, have in some degree warped the Editor's taste, and induced him to consider that as curious which was only scarce, and to reprint quotations, from the adversaries or contemporaries of Dryden, of a length more than sufficient to satisfy the reader of their unworthiness. But, as the painter places a human figure, to afford the means of computing the elevation of the principal object in his landscape, it seemed that the giant-height of Dryden, above the poets of his day, might be best ascertained by extracts from those who judged themselves, and were sometimes deemed by others, his equals, or his superiors. For the same reason, there are thrown into the Appendix a few indifferent verses to the poet's memory; which, while they show how much his loss was felt, point out, at the same time, the impossibility of supplying it.

In the Biographical Memoir, it would have been hard to exact, that the Editor should rival the criticism of Johnson, or produce facts which had escaped the accuracy of Malone. While, however, he has availed himself of the labours of both, particularly of the latter, whose industry has removed the cloud which so long hung over the events of Dryden's life, he has endeavoured to take a different and more enlarged view of the subject than that which his predecessors have presented. The general critical view of Dryden's works being sketched by Johnson with unequalled felicity, and the incidents of his life accurately discussed and ascertained by Malone, something seemed to remain for him who should consider these literary productions in their succession, as actuated by, and operating upon, the taste of an age, where they had so predominant influence; and who might, at the same time, connect the life of Dryden with the history of his publications, without losing sight of the fate and character of the individual. How far this end has been attained, is not for the Editor to guess, especially when, as usual at the close of a work, he finds he is possessed of double the information he had when he commenced it. The kindness of Mr. Octavius Gilchrist, who undertook a journey to Northamptonshire to examine the present state of Rushton, where Dryden often lived, and of Mr. Finlay of Glasgow, who favoured the Editor with the use of some original editions, falls here to be gratefully acknowledged.

In collecting the poetry of Dryden, some hymns translated from the service of the Catholic Church were recovered, by the favour of Captain MacDonogh of the Inverness Militia.[2] As the body of the work was then printed off, they were inserted in the Life of the Author; but should a second impression of this edition be required by the public, they shall be transferred to their proper place. To the Letters of Dryden, published in Mr. Malone's edition of his prose works, the Editor has been enabled to add one article, by the favour of Mrs. White of Bownanhall, Gloucestershire. Those preserved at Knowles were examined at the request of a noble friend, and the contents appeared unfit for publication. Dryden's translations of Fresnoy's Art of Painting, and of the Life of Xavier, are inserted without abridgment, for reasons which are elsewhere alleged.[3] From the version of Maimbourg's "History of the League," there is an extract given, which may be advantageously read along with the Duke of Guise, and the Vindication of that play. The prefaces and dedications are, of course, prefixed to the pieces to which they belong; but those who mean to study them with reference to theatrical criticism, will do well to follow the order recommended by Mr. Malone.[4]

Several pieces published in Derrick's edition of Dryden's poetry, being obviously spurious, are here published separately from his authentic poetry, and with a suitable note of suspicion prefixed to each. They might indeed have been altogether discarded without diminishing the value of the work. Some account might be here given of the various editions of Dryden's poems; but notices of this kind have been liberally scattered through the Life and preliminary matter.

Upon the whole, it is hoped, that as the following is the first complete edition of the Works of Dryden, it will be found, in accuracy of text and copiousness of illustration, not altogether unworthy of the time, labour, and expense which have been ungrudgingly bestowed upon an object so important to English literature.

FOOTNOTES

[1] The octavo edition of the "Annus Mirabilis" did not fall into my hands till the volume containing it was printed off. It contains two important variations: as, stanza 4, the year, read THEIR year; stanza 53, their main, read MEN; both of which the reader is requested to correct. Also an erratum in verse 104, line 2, where the word fortune should be VIRTUE.

[2] By the hands of Mrs. Jackson, who has honoured me with a note, stating, that they are mentioned in Butler's "Tour through Italy;" that after Butler's death, the translations passed into the hands of the celebrated Dr. Alban, whence they were transferred to those of the present possessor.

[3] Vol. i. p. 283; vol. xvii.

[4] Which is, the Essay of Dramatic Poesy, the Defence of that Essay, the Preface to the Mock Astrologer, the Essay on Heroic Plays, the Defence of the Epilogue to the Second Part of the Conquest of Granada, the Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy, and the Answer to Rymer.



CONTENTS

OF

VOLUME FIRST.

The Life of John Dryden

SECT. I. Preliminary remarks on the Poetry of England before the Civil Wars—The Life of Dryden from his Birth till the Restoration—His Early Poems, including the Annus Mirabilis

SECT. II. Revival of the Drama at the Restoration—Heroic Plays— Comedies of Intrigue—Commencement of Dryden's Dramatic Career—The Wild Gallant—Rival Ladies—Indian Queen and Emperor—Dryden's Marriage— Essay on Dramatic Poetry, and subsequent Controversy with Sir Robert Howard—The Maiden Queen—The Tempest—Sir Martin Mar-all—The Mock Astrologer—The Royal Martyr—The two Parts of the Conquest of Granada— Dryden's situation at this period

SECT. III. Heroic Plays—The Rehearsal—Marriage a la Mode—The Assignation—Controversy with Clifford—with Leigh—with Ravenscroft— Massacre of Amboyna—State of Innocence

SECT. IV. Dryden's controversy with Settle—with Rochester—He is assaulted in Rose Street—Aureng-Zebe—Dryden meditates an Epic Poem— All for Love—Limberham—Oedipus—Troilus and Cressida—The Spanish Friar—Dryden supposed to be in opposition to the Court

SECT. V. Dryden engages in Politics—Absalom and Achitophel, Part First —The Medal—MacFlecknoe—Absalom and Achitophel, Part Second—The Duke of Guise

SECT. VI. Threnodia Augustalis—Albion and Albanius—Dryden becomes a Catholic—The Controversy of Dryden with Stillingfleet—The Hind and Panther—Life of St. Francis Xavier—Consequences of the Revolution to Dryden—Don Sebastian—King Arthur—Cleomenes—Love Triumphant

SECT. VII. State of Dryden's Connections in Society after the Revolution—Juvenal and Persius—Smaller Pieces—Eleanora—Third Miscellany—Virgil—Ode to St. Cecilia—Dispute with Milbourne—with Blackmore—Fables—The Author's Death and Funeral—His Private Character—Notices of his Family

SECT. VIII. The State of Dryden's Reputation at his Death, and afterwards—The general Character of his Mind—His Merit as a Dramatist —As a Lyrical Poet—As a Satirist—As a Narrative Poet—As a Philosophical and Miscellaneous Poet—As a Translator—As a Prose Author—As a Critic



THE LIFE OF JOHN DRYDEN.

VOL. I.

THE LIFE OF JOHN DRYDEN.

* * * * *



SECTION I.

Preliminary Remarks on the Poetry of England before the Civil Wars— The Life of Dryden from his Birth till the Restoration—His early Poems, including the "Annus Mirabilis."

The Life of Dryden may be said to comprehend a history of the Literature of England, and its changes, during nearly half a century. While his great contemporary Milton was in silence and secrecy laying the foundation of that immortal fame, which no poet has so highly deserved Dryden's labours were ever in the eye of the public; and he maintained, from the time of the Restoration till his death, in 1700, a decided and acknowledged superiority over all the poets of his age. As he wrote from necessity, he was obliged to pay a certain deference to the public opinion; for he, whose bread depends upon the success of his volume, is compelled to study popularity; but, on the other hand, his better judgment was often directed to improve that of his readers; so that he alternately influenced and stooped to the national taste of the day. If, therefore, we would know the gradual changes which took place in our poetry during the above period, we have only to consult the writings of an author, who produced yearly some new performance allowed to be most excellent in the particular style which was fashionable for the time. It is the object of this memoir to connect, with the account of Dryden's life and publications such a general view of the literature of the time, as may enable the reader to estimate how far the age was indebted to the poet, and how far the poet was influenced by the taste and manners of the age. A few preliminary remarks on the literature of the earlier part of the seventeenth century will form a necessary introduction to this biographical memoir.

[1]When James I. ascended the throne of England he came to rule a court and people, as much distinguished for literature as for commerce and arms. Shakespeare was in the zenith of his reputation, and England possessed other poets inferior to Shakespeare alone; or, indeed, the higher order of whose plays may claim to be ranked above the inferior dramas ascribed to him. Among these we may reckon Massinger, who approached to Shakespeare in dignity; Beaumont and Fletcher, who surpassed him in drawing female characters, and those of polite and courtly life; and Jonson, who attempted to supply, by depth of learning, and laboured accuracy of character, the want of that flow of imagination, which nature had denied to him. Others, who flourished in the reign of James and his son, though little known to the general readers of the present age even by name, had a just claim to be distinguished from the common herd of authors. Ford, Webster, Marston, Brome, Shirley, even Chapman and Decker, added lustre to the stage for which they wrote. The drama, it is true, was the branch of poetry most successfully cultivated; for it afforded the most ready appeal to the public taste. The number of theatres then open in all parts of the city, secured to the adventurous poet the means of having his performance represented upon one stage or other; and he was neither tired nor disgusted by the difficulties, and disagreeable observances, which must now be necessarily undergone by every candidate for dramatic laurels.[2] But, although during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I, the stage seems to have afforded the principal employment of the poets, there wanted not many, who cultivated, with success, the other departments of Parnassus. It is only necessary to name Spenser, whose magic tale continues to interest us, in despite of the languor of a continued allegory; Drayton, who, though less known, possesses perhaps equal powers of poetry; Beaumont the elder, whose poem on Bosworth Field carries us back to the days of the Plantagenets; Fairfax, the translator of Tasso, the melody of whose numbers became the model of Waller; besides many others, who ornamented this era of British literature.

Notwithstanding the splendour of these great names, it must be confessed, that one common fault, in a greater or less degree, pervaded the most admired poetry of Queen Elizabeth's age. This was the fatal propensity to false wit; to substitute, namely, strange and unexpected connections of sound, or of idea, for real humour, and even for the effusions of the stronger passions It seems likely that this fashion arose at court, a sphere in which its denizens never think they move with due lustre, until they have adopted a form of expression, as well as a system of manners, different from that which is proper to mankind at large. In Elizabeth's reign, the court language was formed on the plan of one Lillie, a pedantic courtier, who wrote a book, entitled "Euphues and his England, or the Anatomy of Wit;"[3] which quality he makes to consist in the indulgence of every monstrous and overstrained conceit, that can be engendered by a strong memory and a heated brain, applied to the absurd purpose of hatching unnatural conceits.[4] It appears, that this fantastical person had a considerable share in determining the false taste of his age, which soon became so general, that the tares which sprung from it are to be found even among the choicest of the wheat. Shakespeare himself affords us too many instances of this fashionable heresy in wit; and he, who could create new worlds out of his own imagination descended to low, and often ill-timed puns and quibbles. This was not an evil to be cured by the accession of our Scottish James, whose qualifications as a punster were at least equal to his boasted king-craft.[5] The false taste, which had been gaining ground even in the reign of Elizabeth, now overflowed the whole kingdom with the impetuosity of a land-flood. These outrages upon language were committed without regard to time and place. They were held good arguments at the bar, though Bacon sat on the woolsack; and eloquence irresistible by the most hardened sinner, when King or Corbet were in the pulpit.[6] Where grave and learned professions set the example, the poets, it will readily be believed, ran headlong into an error, for which they could plead such respectable example. The affectation "of the word" and "of the letter," for alliteration was almost as fashionable as punning, seemed, in some degree, to bring back English composition to the barbarous rules of the ancient Anglo-Saxons, the merit of whose poems consisted, not in the ideas, but in the quaint arrangement of the words, and the regular recurrence of some favourite sound or letter.

This peculiar taste for twisting and playing upon words, instead of applying them to their natural and proper use, was combined with the similar extravagance of those whom Dr. Johnson has entitled Metaphysical Poets. This class of authors used the same violence towards images and ideas which had formerly been applied to words; in truth, the two styles were often combined and, even when separate, had a kindred alliance with each other. It is the business of the punster to discover and yoke together two words, which, while they have some resemblance in sound, the more exact the better, convey a totally different signification. The metaphysical poet, on the other hand, piqued himself in discovering hidden resemblances between ideas apparently the most dissimilar, and in combining by some violent and compelled association, illustrations and allusions utterly foreign from each other. Thus did the metaphysical poet resemble the quibbler exercising precisely the same tyranny over ideas, which the latter practised upon sounds only.

Jonson gave an early example of metaphysical poetry; indeed, it was the natural resource of a mind amply stored with learning, gifted with a tenacious memory and the power of constant labour, but to which was denied that vivid perception of what is naturally beautiful, and that happiness of expression, which at once conveys to the reader the idea of the poet These latter qualities unite in many passages of Shakespeare, of which the reader at once acknowledges the beauty, the justice, and the simplicity. But such Jonson was unequal to produce; and he substituted the strange, forced, and most unnatural though ingenious analogies, which were afterwards copied by Donne and Cowley.[7] In reading Shakespeare, we often meet passages so congenial to our nature and feelings, that, beautiful as they are, we can hardly help wondering they did not occur to ourselves; in studying Jonson, we have often to marvel how his conceptions could have occurred to any human being. The one is like an ancient statue, the beauty of which, springing from the exactness of proportion does not always strike at first sight, but rises upon us as we bestow time in considering it; the other is the representation of a monster, which is at first only surprising, and ludicrous or disgusting ever after. When the taste for simplicity however, is once destroyed, it is long ere a nation recovers it; and the metaphysical poets seem to have retained possession of the public favour from the reign of James I. till the beginning of the Civil Wars silenced the muses. The universities were perhaps to blame during this period of usurpation; for which it may be admitted in excuse, that the metaphysical poetry could only be practised by men whose minds were deeply stored with learning, and who could boldly draw upon a large fund of acquired knowledge for supplying the expenditure of far-fetched and extravagant images, which their compositions required. The book of Nature is before all men; but when her limits are to be overstepped, the acquirement of adventitious knowledge becomes of paramount necessity; and it was but natural that Cambridge and Oxford should prize a style of poetry, to which depth of learning was absolutely indispensable.

I have stated, that the metaphysical poetry was fashionable during the early part of Charles the First's reign. It is true, that Milton descended to upbraid that unfortunate prince, that the chosen companion of his private hours was one William Shakespeare, a player; but Charles admitted less sacred poets to share his partiality. Ben Jonson supplied his court with masques, and his pageants with verses; and, notwithstanding an ill-natured story, shared no inconsiderable portion of his bounty.[8] Donne, a leader among the metaphysical poets, with whom King James had punned and quibbled in person.[9] shared, in a remarkable degree, the good graces of Charles I., who may therefore be supposed no enemy to his vein of poetry, although neither his sincere piety nor his sacred office restrained him from fantastic indulgence in extravagant conceit, even upon the most solemn themes which can be selected for poetry.[10] Cowley, who with the learning and acuteness of Donne, possessed the more poetical qualities of a fertile imagination, and frequent happiness of expression, and who claims the highest place of all who ever plied the unprofitable trade of combining dissimilar and repugnant ideas, was not indeed known to the king during his prosperity; but his talents recommended him at the military court of Oxford, and the [Transcriber's note: word missing here in the original] ingenious poet of the metaphysical class enjoyed the applause of Charles before he shared the exile of his consort Henrietta. Cleveland also was honoured with the early notice of Charles;[11] one of the most distinguished metaphysical bards, who afterwards exerted his talents of wit and satire upon the royal side, and strained his imagination for extravagant invective against the Scottish army, who sold their king, and the parliament leaders, who bought him. All these, and others unnecessary to mention, were read and respected at court; being esteemed by their contemporaries, and doubtless believing themselves the wonder of their own, and the pattern of succeeding ages; and however much they [Transcriber's note: fragment of word only in original, presume "might"] differ from each other in parts and genius, they sought the same road to poetical fame, by starting the most unnatural images which their imaginations could conceive, or by hunting more common allusions through the most minute and circumstantial particulars and ramifications.

Yet, though during the age of Charles I. the metaphysical poets enjoyed the larger proportion of public applause, authors were not wanting who sought other modes of distinguishing themselves. Milton, who must not be named in the same paragraph with others, although he had not yet meditated the sublime work which was to carry his name to immortality, disdained, even in his lesser compositions, the preposterous conceits and learned absurdities, by which his contemporaries acquired distinction. Some of his slighter academic prolusions are, indeed, tinged with the prevailing taste of his age, or, perhaps, were written in ridicule of it; but no circumstance in his life is more remarkable, than that "Comus," the "Monody on Lycidas," the "Allegro and Penseroso," and the "Hymn on the Nativity," are unpolluted by the metaphysical jargon and affected language which the age esteemed indispensable to poetry. This refusal to bend to an evil so prevailing, and which held out so many temptations to a youth of learning and genius, can only be ascribed to the natural chastity of Milton's taste, improved by an earnest and eager study of the purest models of antiquity.

But besides Milton, who stood aloof and alone, there was a race of lesser poets, who endeavoured to glean the refuse of the applause reaped by Donne, Cowley, and their followers, by adopting ornaments which the latter had neglected, perhaps because they could be attained without much labour or abstruse learning. The metaphysical poets, in their slip-shod pindarics, had totally despised, not only smoothness and elegance but the common rhythm of versification. Many and long passages may be read without perceiving the least difference between them and barbarous jingling, ill-regulated prose; and in appearance, though the lines be divided into unequal lengths, the eye and ear acknowledge little difference between them and the inscription on a tomb-stone. In a word, not only harmony of numbers, but numbers themselves, were altogether neglected; or if an author so far respected ancient practice as to make lines which could be scanned like verse, he had done his part, and was perfectly indifferent, although they sounded like prose.[12] But as melody will be always acceptable to the ear, some poets chose this neglected road to fame, and gained a portion of public favour, by attending to the laws of harmony, which their rivals had discarded. Waller and Denham were the first who thus distinguished themselves; but, as Johnson happily remarks, what was acquired by Denham, was inherited by Waller. Something there was in the situation of both these authors, which led them to depart from what was then the beaten path of composition. They were men of rank, wealth, and fashion, and had experienced all the interruptions to deep study, with which such elevated station is naturally attended. It was in vain for Waller, a wit, a courtier, and a politician; or for Denham, who was only distinguished at the university as a dreaming, dissipated gambler, to attempt to rival the metaphysical subtleties of Donne and Cowley, who had spent serious and sequestered lives in acquiring the knowledge and learning which they squandered in their poetry. Necessity, therefore and perhaps a dawning of more simple taste, impelled these courtly poets to seek another and more natural mode of pleasing. The melody of verse was a province unoccupied, and Waller, forming his rhythm upon the modulation of Fairfax, and other poets of the maiden reign, exhibited in his very first poem[13] striking marks of attention to the suavity of numbers. Denham, in his dedication to Charles II., informs us, that the indulgence of his poetical vein had drawn the notice, although accompanied with the gentle censure, of Charles I., when, in 1647, he obtained access to his person by the intercession of Hugh Peters. Suckling, whom Dryden has termed "a sprightly wit, and a courtly writer," may be added to the list of smooth and easy poets of the period, and had the same motives as Denham and Waller for attaching himself to that style of composition. He was allowed to have the peculiar art of making whatever he did become him; and it cannot be doubted, that his light and airy style of ballads and sonnets had many admirers. Upon the whole, this class of poets, although they hardly divided the popular favour with the others, were also noticed and applauded. Thus the poets of the earlier part of the seventeenth century may be divided into one class, who sacrificed both sense and sound to the exercise of extravagant, though ingenious, associations of imagery; and a second, who, aiming to distinguish themselves by melody of versification, were satisfied with light and trivial subjects, and too often contented with attaining smoothness of measure, neglected the more essential qualities of poetry. The intervention of the civil wars greatly interrupted the study of poetry. The national attention was called to other objects, and those who, in the former peaceful reigns, would have perhaps distinguished themselves as poets and dramatists, were now struggling for fame in the field, or declaiming for power in the senate. The manners of the prevailing party, their fanatical detestation of everything like elegant or literary amusement, their affected horror at stage representations, which at once silenced the theatres, and their contempt for profane learning, which degraded the universities, all operated, during the civil wars and succeeding usurpation, to check the pursuits of the poet, by withdrawing that public approbation, which is the best, and often the sole, reward of his labour. There was, at this time, a sort of interregnum in the public taste, as well as in its government. The same poets were no doubt alive who had distinguished themselves at the court of Charles: but Cowley and Denham were exiled with their sovereign; Waller was awed into silence, by the rigour of the puritanic spirit; and even the muse of Milton was scared from him by the clamour of religious and political controversy, and only returned, like a sincere friend, to cheer the adversity of one who had neglected her during his career of worldly importance.[14]

During this period, the most unfavourable to literature which had occurred for at least two centuries, Dryden, the subject of this memoir, was gradually and silently imbibing those stores of learning, and cultivating that fancy which was to do so much to further the reformation of taste and poetry. It is now time to state his descent and parentage.

The name of Dryden is local, and probably originated in the north of England, where, as well as in the neighbouring counties of Scotland, it frequently occurs, though it is not now borne by any person of distinction. David Driden, or Dryden, married the daughter of William Nicholson of Staff-hill, in the county of Cumberland and was the great-great-grandfather of our poet. John Dryden, eldest son of David, settled in Northamptonshire, where he acquired the estate of Canons-Ashby, by marriage with Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir John Cope of that county. Wood says, that John Dryden was by profession a schoolmaster, and honoured with the friendship of the great Erasmus, who stood godfather to one of his sons.[15] He appears, from some passages in his will, to have entertained the puritanical principles, which, we shall presently find, descended to his family.[16] Erasmus Driden, his eldest son, succeeded to the estate of Canons-Ashby, was high-sheriff of Northamptonshire in the fortieth year of Queen Elizabeth, and was created a knight baronet in the seventeenth of King James I. Sir Erasmus married Frances, second daughter and co-heiress of William Wilkes of Hodnell, in Warwickshire by whom he had three sons, first, Sir John Driden, his successor in the title and estate of Canons-Ashby; second, William Driden of Farndon, in Northamptonshire; third, Erasmus Driden of Tichmarsh, in the same county. The last of these was the father of the poet.

Erasmus Driden married Mary, the daughter of the reverend Henry Pickering, younger son of Sir Gilbert Pickering, a person who, though in considerable favour with James I., was a zealous puritan, and so noted for opposition to the Catholics that the conspirators in the Gunpowder Treason, his own brother-in-law being one of the number,[17] had resolved upon his individual murder, as an episode to the main plot; determined so to conduct it, as to throw the suspicion of the destruction of the Parliament upon the puritans.[18] These principles, we shall soon see, became hereditary in the family of Pickering. Mr. Malone's industry has collected little concerning our author's maternal grandfather, excepting, that he was born in 1584; named minister of Oldwinkle All-Saints in 1647; and died in 1657. From the time when he attained this preferment, it is highly probable, that he had been recommended to it by the puritanical tenets which he doubtless held in common with the rest of his family.

Of the poet's father, Erasmus, we know even less than of his other relations. He acted as a justice of peace during the usurpation, and was the father of no less than fourteen children; four sons and ten daughters. The sons were John, Erasmus, Henry, and James; the daughters, Agnes, Rose, Lucy, Mary, Martha, Elizabeth, Hester, Hannah, Abigail, Frances. Such anecdotes concerning them as my predecessors have recovered, may be found in the note.[19]

JOHN DRYDEN, the subject of this memoir, was born at the parsonage house of Oldwinkle All-Saints, on or about the 9th day of August 1631.[20] The village then belonged to the family of Exeter, as we are informed by the poet himself in the postscript to his Virgil. That his family were Puritans may readily be admitted; but that they were Anabaptists, although confidently asserted by some of our author's political or poetical antagonists, appears altogether improbable. Notwithstanding, therefore, the sarcasm of the Duke of Buckingham, the register of Oldwinkle All-Saints parish, had it been in existence, would probably have contained the record of our poet's baptism.[21]

Dryden seems to have received the rudiments of his education at Tichmarsh,[22] and was admitted a king's scholar at Westminster,[23] under the tuition of the celebrated Dr. Bushby,[24] for whom he ever afterwards entertained the most sincere veneration. One of his letters to his old master is addressed, "Honoured Sir," and couched in terms of respect, and even humility, fully sufficient for the occasion. Another written by Dryden, when his feelings were considerably irritated by a supposed injustice done to his son, is nevertheless qualified by great personal deference to his old preceptor. It may be readily supposed, that such a scholar, under so able a teacher, must have made rapid progress in classical learning. The bent of the juvenile poet, even at this early period, distinguished itself. He translated the third satire of Persius, as a Thursday night's task, and executed many other exercises of the same nature, in English verse, none of which are now in existence.[25] During the last year of his residence at Westminster, the death of Henry Lord Hastings, a young nobleman of great learning, and much beloved, called forth no less than ninety-eight elegies, one of which was written by our poet, then about eighteen years old. They were published in 1650, under the title of "Lachrymae Musarum."

Dryden, having obtained a Westminster scholarship was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge on the 11th May 1650, his tutor being the reverend John Templer, M.A., a man of some learning, who wrote a Latin Treatise in confutation of Hobbes, and a few theological tracts and single sermons. While at college, our author's conduct seems not to have been uniformly regular. He was subjected to slight punishment for contumacy to the vice-master,[26] and seems, according to the statement of an obscure libeller, to have been engaged in some public and notorious dispute with a nobleman's son, probably on account of the indulgence of his turn for satire.[27] He took, however, the degree of Bachelor, in January 1653-4, but neither became Master of Arts,[28] nor a fellow of the university and certainly never retained for it much of that veneration usually paid by an English scholar to his Alma Mater. He often celebrates Oxford, but only mentions Cambridge as the contrast of the sister university in point of taste and learning:

"Oxford to him a dearer name shall be Than his own mother-university: Thebes did his green unknowing youth engage, He chooses Athens in his riper age."[29]

A preference so uncommon, in one who had studied at Cambridge, probably originated in some cause of disgust, which we may now search for in vain.

In June 1654, the death of his father, Erasmus Dryden, proved a temporary interruption to our author's studies. He left the university, on this occasion, to take possession of his inheritance, consisting of two-thirds of a small estate near Blakesley, in Northamptonshire, worth, in all, about sixty pounds a year. The other third part of this small property was bequeathed to his mother during her life, and the property reverted to the poet after her death in 1676. With this little patrimony our author returned to Cambridge, where he continued until the middle of the year 1657.

Although Dryden's residence at the university was prolonged to the unusual space of nearly seven years, we do not find that he distinguished himself during that time by any poetical prolusions excepting a few lines prefixed to a work, entitled, "Sion and Parnassus; or Epigrams on several Texts of the Old and New Testament," published in 1650, by John Hoddesdon.[30] Mr. Malone conjectures that our poet would have contributed to the academic collection of verses, entitled, "Oliva Pacis," and published in 1654, on the peace between England and Holland, had not his father's death interfered at that period. It is probable, we lose but little by the disappearance of any occasional verses which may have been produced by Dryden at this time. The elegy on Lord Hastings, the lines prefixed to "Sion and Parnassus," and some complimentary stanzas which occur in a letter to his cousin Honor Driden,[31] would have been enough to assure us, even without his own testimony, that Cowley was the darling of his youth; and that he imitated his points of wit, and quirks of epigram, with a similar contempt for the propriety of their application. From these poems, we learn enough to be grateful, that Dryden was born at a later period in his century; for had not the road to fame been altered in consequence of the Restoration, his extensive information and acute ingenuity would probably have betrayed the author of the "Ode to St. Cecilia," and the father of English poetical harmony, into rivalling the metaphysical pindarics of Donne and Cowley.

The verses, to which we allude, display their sublety [Transcriber's note: sic] of thought, their puerile extravagance of conceit, and that structure of verse, which, as the poet himself says of Holyday's translations, has nothing of verse in it except the worst part of it— the rhyme, and that far from being unexceptionable The following lines, in which the poet describes the death of Lord Hastings by the small-pox, will be probably admitted as a justification of this censure:

"Was there no milder way but the small-pox; The very filthiness of Pandora's box? So many spots, like naeves, our Venus soil? One jewel set off with so many a foil? Blisters with pride swelled, which through 's flesh did sprout, Like rose-buds, stuck i'the lily-skin about. Each little pimple had a tear in it, To wail the fault its rising did commit, Which, rebel-like, with its own lord at strife, Thus made an insurrection 'gainst his life. Or were these gems sent to adorn his skin, The cabinet of a richer soul within? No comet need foretel his change drew on, Whose corpse might seem a constellation."

This is exactly in the tone of Bishop Corbet's invective against the same disease:

"Oh thou deformed unwoman-like disease, Thou plough'st up flesh and blood, and there sow'st pease; And leav'st such prints on beauty that dost come, As clouted shoon do on a floor of loam. Thou that of faces honey-combs dost make, And of two breasts two cullenders, forsake Thy deadly trade; now thou art rich, give o'er, And let our curses call thee forth no more."[32]

After leaving the university, our author entered the world, supported by friends, from whose character, principles, and situation, it might have been prophesied, with probability, that his success in life, and his literary reputation, would have been exactly the reverse of what they actually proved. Sir Gilbert Pickering was cousin-german to the poet, and also to his mother; thus standing related to Dryden in a double connection.[33] This gentleman was a staunch puritan, and having set out as a reformer, ended by being a regicide, and an abettor of the tyranny of Cromwell. He was one of the judges of the unfortunate Charles; and though he did not sit in that bloody court upon the last and fatal day, yet he seems to have concurred in the most violent measures of the unconscientious men who did so. He had been one of the parliamentary counsellors of state, and hesitated not to be numbered among the godly and discreet persons who assisted Cromwell as a privy council. Moreover he was lord chamberlain of the Protector's court, and received the honour of his mock peerage.

The patronage of such a person was more likely to have elevated Dryden to the temporal greatness and wealth acquired by the sequestrators and committee-men of that oppressive time, than to have aided him in attaining the summits of Parnassus. For, according to the slight records which Mr. Malone has recovered concerning Sir Gilbert Pickering's character, it would seem, that, to the hard, precise, fanatical contempt of every illumination, save the inward light, which he derived from his sect, he added the properties of a fiery temper, and a rude and savage address.[34] In what capacity Dryden lived with his kinsman, or to what line of life circumstances seemed to destine the future poet, we are left at liberty to conjecture. Shadwell, the virulent antagonist of our author, has called him Sir Gilbert Pickering's clerk; and it is indeed highly probable that he was employed as his amanuensis, or secretary.

The next step of advancement you began Was being clerk to Noll's lord chamberlain, A sequestrator and committee-man.

The Medal of John Bayes.

But I cannot, with Mr. Malone, interpret the same passage, by supposing the third line of the triplet to apply to Dryden. Had he been actually a member of a committee of sequestration, that circumstance would never have remained in the dubious obscurity of Shadwell's poetry; it would have been as often echoed and re-echoed as every other incident of the poet's life which was capable of bearing an unfavourable interpretation. I incline therefore to believe, that the terms sequestrator and committee-man apply not to the poet, but to his patron Sir Gilbert, to whom their propriety cannot be doubted.

Sir Gilbert Pickering was not our author's only relation at the court of Cromwell. The chief of his family, Sir John Driden, elder brother of the poet's father, was also a flaming and bigoted puritan,[35] through whose gifts and merits his nephew might reasonably hope to attain preferment In a youth entering life under the protection of such relations, who could have anticipated the future dramatist and poet laureate, much less the advocate and martyr of prerogative and of the Stuart family, the convert and confessor of the Roman Catholic faith? In his after career, his early connections with the puritans, and the principles of his kinsmen during the civil wars and usurpation, were often made subjects of reproach, to which he never seems to have deigned an answer.[36]

The death of Cromwell was the first theme of our poet's muse. Averse as the puritans were to any poetry, save that of Hopkins, of Withers, or of Wisdom, they may be reasonably supposed to have had some sympathy with Dryden's sorrow upon the death of Oliver, even although it vented itself in the profane and unprofitable shape of an elegy. But we have no means of estimating its reception with the public, if, in truth, the public long interested themselves about the memory of Cromwell, while his relations and dependants presented to them the more animated and interesting spectacle of a struggle for his usurped power. Richard perhaps, and the immediate friends of the deceased Protector, with such of Dryden's relations as were attached to his memory, may have thought, like the tinker at the Taming of the Shrew, that this same elegy was "marvellous good matter." It did not probably attract much general attention. The first edition, in 1659, is extremely rare: it was reprinted, however, along with those of Sprat and Waller, in the course of the same year. After the Restoration this piece fell into a slate of oblivion, from which it may be believed that the author, who had seen a new light in politics, was by no means solicitous to recall it. His political antagonist did not, however, fail to awaken its memory, when Dryden became a decided advocate for the royal prerogative, and the hereditary right of the Stuarts. During the controversies of Charles the Second's reign, in which Dryden took so decided a share, his eulogy on Cromwell was often objected to him, as a proof of inconsistence and apostasy. One passage, which plainly applies to the civil wars in general, was wrested to signify an explicit approbation of the murder of Charles the First; and the whole piece was reprinted by an incensed antagonist, under the title of "An Elegy on the Usurper O.C., by the author of Absalom and Achitophel, published (it is ironically added) to show the loyalty and integrity of the poet,"—an odd piece of vengeance, which has perhaps never been paralleled, except in the single case of "Love in a Hollow Tree."[37] The motives of the Duchess of Marlborough, in reprinting Lord Grimestone's memorable dramatic essay, did not here apply. The elegy on Cromwell, although doubtless sufficiently faulty, contained symptoms of a regenerating taste; and, politically considered, although a panegyric on an usurper, the topics of praise are selected with attention to truth, and are, generally speaking, such as Cromwell's worst enemies could not have denied to him. Neither had Dryden made the errors, or misfortunes, of the royal family, and their followers, the subject of censure or of contrast. With respect to them, it was hardly possible that a eulogy on such a theme could have less offence in it. This was perhaps a fortunate circumstance for Dryden at the Restoration; and it must be noticed to his honour, that as he spared the exiled monarch in his panegyric on the usurper, so, after the Restoration, in his numerous writings on the side of royalty, there is no instance of his recalling his former praise of Cromwell.

After the frequent and rapid changes which the government of England underwent from the death of Cromwell, in the spring of 1660, Charles II. was restored to the throne of his ancestors. It may be easily imagined, that this event, a subject in itself highly fit for poetry, and which promised the revival of poetical pursuits, was hailed with universal acclamation by all whose turn for verse had been suppressed and stifled during the long reign of fanaticism. The Restoration led the way to the revival of letters, as well as that of legal government. With diaries, as Dryden has expressed it,

The officious muses came along, A gay, harmonious quire, like angels ever young.

It was not, however, to be expected, that an alteration of the taste which had prevailed in the days of Charles I., was to be the immediate consequence of the new order of things. The muse awoke, like the sleeping beauty of the fairy tale, in the same antiquated and absurd vestments in which she had fallen asleep twenty years before; or, if the reader will pardon another simile, the poets were like those who, after long mourning, resume for a time their ordinary dresses, of which the fashion has in the meantime passed away. Other causes contributed to a temporary revival of the metaphysical poetry. Almost all its professors, attached to the house of Stuart, had been martyrs, or confessors at least, in its cause. Cowley, their leader, was yet alive, and returned to claim the late reward of his loyalty and his sufferings. Cleveland had died a victim to the contempt, rather than the persecution, of the republicans;[38] but this most ardent of cavalier poets was succeeded by Wild, whose "Iter Boreale" a poem on Monk's march from Scotland formed upon Cleveland's model, obtained extensive popularity among the citizens of London.[39] Dryden's good sense and natural taste perceived the obvious defects of these, the very coarsest of metaphysical poets; insomuch, that, in his "Essay on Dramatic Poetry," he calls wresting and torturing one word into another, a catachresis, or Clevelandism, and charges Wild with being in poetry what the French call un mauvais buffon.

Sprat, and an host of inferior imitators, marched for a time in the footsteps of Cowley; delighted, probably, to discover in Pindaric writing, as it was called, a species of poetry which required neither sound nor sense, provided only there was a sufficient stock of florid and extravagant thoughts, expressed in harsh and bombastic language.

But this style of poetry, although it was for a time revived, and indeed continued to be occasionally employed even to the end of the eighteenth century, had too slight foundation in truth and nature to maintain the exclusive pre-eminence, which it had been exalted to during the reigns of the two first monarchs of the Stuart race. As Rochester profanely expressed it, Cowley's poetry was not of God, and therefore could not stand. An approaching change of public taste was hastened by the manners of the restored monarch and his courtiers. That pedantry which had dictated the excessive admiration of metaphysical conceits, was not the characteristic of the court of Charles II., as it had been of those of his grandfather and father. Lively and witty by nature, with all the acquired habits of an adventurer, whose wanderings, military and political, left him time neither for profound reflection nor for deep study, the restored monarch's literary taste, which was by no means contemptible, was directed towards a lighter and more pleasing style of poetry than the harsh and scholastic productions of Donne and Cowley. The admirers, therefore, of this old school were confined to the ancient cavaliers, and the old courtiers of Charles I.; men unlikely to lead the fashion in the court of a gay monarch, filled with such men as Buckingham, Rochester, Etherege, Sedley, and Mulgrave, whose time and habits confined their own essays to occasional verses, and satirical effusions, in which they often ridiculed the heights of poetry they were incapable of attaining. With such men the class of poets, which before the civil war held but a secondary rank, began to rise in estimation. Waller, Suckling, and Denham, began to assert a pre-eminence over Cowley and Donne; the ladies, whose influence in the court of James and Charles I. was hardly felt, and who were then obliged to be contented with such pedantic worship as is contained in the "Mistress" of Cowley, and the "Epithalamion" of Donne, began now, when their voices were listened to, and their taste consulted, to determine that their poetical lovers should address them in strains more musical, if not more intelligible. What is most acceptable to the fair sex will always sway the mode of a gay court; and the character of a smooth and easy sonneteer was soon considered as an indispensable requisite to a man of wit and fashion, terms which were then usually synonymous.

To those who still retained a partiality for that exercise of the fancy and memory, afforded by the metaphysical poetry, the style of satire then prevalent afforded opportunities of applying it. The same depth of learning, the same extravagant ingenuity in combining the most remote images, and in driving casual associations to the verge of absurdity, almost all the remarkable features which characterised the poetry of Cowley, may be successfully traced in the satire of Hudibras. The sublime itself borders closely on the ludicrous; but the bombast and extravagant cannot be divided from it. The turn of thought, and the peculiar kind of mental exertion, corresponds in both styles of writing; and although Butler pursued the ludicrous, and Cowley aimed at the surprising, the leading features of their poetry only differ like those of the same face convulsed with laughter, or arrested in astonishment The district of metaphysical poetry was thus invaded by the satirists, who sought weapons there to avenge the misfortunes and oppression which they had so lately sustained from the puritans; and as it is difficult in a laughing age to render serious what has been once applied to ludicrous purposes, Butler and his imitators retained quiet possession of the style which they had usurped from the grave bards of the earlier age.

A single poet, Sir William Davenant,[40] made a meritorious, though a misguided and unsuccessful effort, to rescue poetry from becoming the mere handmaid of pleasure, or the partisan of political or personal disputes, and to restore her to her natural rank in society, as an auxiliary of religion, policy, law, and virtue. His heroic poem of "Gondibert" has, no doubt, great imperfections; but it intimates everywhere a mind above those laborious triflers, who called that poetry which was only verse; and very often exhibits a majestic, dignified, and manly simplicity, equally superior to the metaphysical school, by the doctrines of which Davenant was occasionally misled. Yet, if that author too frequently imitated their quaint affectation of uncommon sentiment and associations, he had at least the merit of couching them in stately and harmonious verse; a quality of poetry totally neglected by the followers of Cowley. I mention Davenant here, and separate from the other poets, who were distinguished about the time of the Restoration, because I think that Dryden, to whom we are about to return, was, at that period, an admirer and imitator of "Gondibert," as we are certain that he was a personal and intimate friend of the author.

With the return of the king, the fall of Dryden's political patrons was necessarily involved. Sir Gilbert Pickering, having been one of Charles's judges, was too happy to escape into obscurity, under an absolute disqualification for holding any office, political, civil, or ecclesiastical. The influence of Sir John Driden was ended at the same time; and thus both those relations, under whose protection Dryden entered life, and by whose influence he was probably to have been aided in some path to wealth or eminence, became at once incapable of assisting him; and even connection with them was rendered, by the change of times, disgraceful, if not dangerous. Yet it may be doubted whether Dryden felt this evil in its full extent. Sterne has said of a character, that a blessing which closed his mouth, or a misfortune which opened it with a good grace, were nearly equal to him; nay, that sometimes the misfortune was the more acceptable of the two. It is possible, by a parity of reasoning, that Dryden may have felt himself rather relieved from, than deprived of, his fanatical patrons, under whose guidance he could never hope to have indulged in that career of literary pursuit, which the new order of things presented to the ambition of the youthful poet; at least, he lost no time in useless lamentation, but, now in his thirtieth year, proceeded to exert that poetical talent, which had heretofore been repressed by his own situation, and that of the country.

Dryden, left to his own exertions, hastened to testify his joyful acquiescence in the restoration of monarchy, by publishing "Astroea Redux," a poem which was probably distinguished among the innumerable congratulations poured forth upon the occasion; and he added to those which hailed the coronation, in 1661, the verses entitled, "A Panegyric to his Sacred Majesty." These pieces testify, that the author had already made some progress in harmonising his versification. But they also contain many of those points of wit, and turns of epigram, which he condemned in his more advanced judgment. The same description applies, in a yet stronger degree, to the verses addressed to Lord Chancellor Hyde (Lord Clarendon) on the new-year's-day of 1662, in which Dryden has more closely imitated the metaphysical poetry than in any poem, except the juvenile elegy on Lord Hastings. I cannot but think, that the poet consulted the taste of his patron, rather than his own, in adopting this peculiar style. Clarendon was educated in the court of Charles I., and Dryden may have thought it necessary, in addressing him, to imitate the "strong verses," which were then admired.

According to the fashion of the times, such copies of occasional verses were rewarded by a gratuity from the person to whom they were addressed; and poets had not yet learned to think this mode of receiving assistance incompatible with the feelings of dignity or delicacy. Indeed, in the common transactions of that age, one sees something resembling the eastern custom of accompanying with a present, and not always a splendid one, the usual forms of intercourse and civility. Thus we find the wealthy corporation of Hull, backing a polite address to the Duke of Monmouth, their governor, with a present of six broad pieces; and his grace deemed it a point of civility to press the acceptance of the same gratuity upon the member of parliament for the city, by whom it was delivered to him.[41] We may therefore believe, that Dryden received some compliment from the king and chancellor; and I am afraid the same premises authorise us to conclude that it was but trifling. Meantime, our author having no settled means of support, except his small landed property, and having now no assistance to expect from his more wealthy kinsmen, to whom, probably, neither his literary pursuits, nor his commencing them by a panegyric on the restoration, were very agreeable, and whom he had also offended by a slight change in spelling his name,[42] seems to have been reduced to narrow and uncomfortable circumstances. Without believing, in its full extent, the exaggerated account given by Brown and Shadwell,[43] we may discover from their reproaches, that, at the commencement of his literary career, Dryden was connected, and probably lodged, with Herringman the bookseller, in the New Exchange, for whom he wrote prefaces, and other occasional pieces. But having, as Mr. Malone has observed, a patrimony, though a small one, of his own, it seems impossible that our author was ever in that state of mean and abject dependence, which the malice of his enemies afterwards pretended. The same malice misrepresented, or greatly exaggerated, the nature of Dryden's obligations to Sir Robert Howard, with whom he became acquainted probably about the time of the Restoration, whose influence was exerted in his favour, and whose good offices the poet returned by literary assistance.

Sir Robert Howard was a younger son of Thomas Earl of Berkshire,[44] and, like all his family, had distinguished himself as a royalist, particularly at the battle of Cropredy[45] Bridge. He had recently suffered a long imprisonment in Windsor Castle during the usurpation. His rank and merits made him, after the Restoration, a patron of some consequence; and upon his publishing a collection of verses very soon after that period, Dryden prefixed an address "to his honoured friend" on "his excellent poems." Sir Robert Howard understood the value of Dryden's attachment, introduced him into his family, and probably aided in procuring his productions that degree of attention from the higher world, for want of which the most valuable efforts of genius have often sunk into unmerited obscurity. Such, in short, were his exertions in favour of Dryden, that, though we cannot believe he was indebted to Howard, for those necessaries of life which he had the means to procure for himself, the poet found ground to acknowledge, that his patron had not only been "carefull of his fortune, which was the effect of his nobleness, but solicitous of his reputation, which was that of his kindness."

Thus patronised, our author seems to have advanced in reputation, as he became more generally known to the learned and ingenious of his time. Yet we have but few traces of the labour, by which he doubtless attained, and secured, his place in society. A short satire on the Dutch, written to animate the people of England against them, appeared in 1662.[46] It is somewhat in the hard style of invective, which Cleveland applied to the Scottish nation; yet Dryden thought it worth while to weave the same verses into the prologue and epilogue of the tragedy of "Amboyna," a piece written in 1673, with the same kind intentions towards the states-general.

Science, as well as poetry, began to revive after the iron dominion of military fanaticism was ended; and Dryden, who through life was attached to experimental philosophy, speedily associated himself with those who took interest in its progress. He was chosen a member of the newly instituted Royal Society, 26th November 1662; an honour which cemented his connection with the most learned men of the time, and is an evidence of the respect in which he was already held. Most of these, and the discoveries by which they had distinguished themselves, Dryden took occasion to celebrate in his "Epistle to Dr. Walter Charleton," a learned physician, upon his treatise of Stonehenge. Gilbert, Boyle, Harvey, and Ent, are mentioned with enthusiastic applause as treading in the path pointed out by Bacon, who first broke the fetters of Aristotle, and taught the world to derive knowledge from experiment. In these elegant verses, the author divests himself of all the flippant extravagance of point and quibble, in which, complying with his age, he had hitherto indulged, though of late in a limited degree.

While thus united in friendly communion with men of kindred and congenial spirits, Dryden seems to have been sensible of the necessity of applying his literary talents to some line, in which he might derive a steadier and more certain recompence, than by writing occasional verses to the great, or doing literary drudgery for the bookseller. His own genius would probably have directed him to the ambitious labours of an epic poem; but for this the age afforded little encouragement. "Gondibert," the style of which, Dryden certainly both admired and copied, became a martyr to the raillery of the critics; and to fill up the measure of shame, the "Paradise Lost" fell still-born from the press. This last instance of bad taste had not, it is true, yet taken place; but the men who were guilty of it, were then living under Dryden's observation and their manners and habits could not fail to teach him, to anticipate the little encouragement they were likely to afford to the loftier labours of poetry. One only line remained, in which poetical talents might exert themselves, with some chance of procuring their possessor's reward, or at least maintenance, and this was dramatic composition. To this Dryden sedulously applied himself, with various success, for many years. But before proceeding to trace the history of his dramatic career, I proceed to notice such pieces of his poetry, as exhibit marks of his earlier style of composition.

The victory gained by the Duke of York over the Dutch fleet on the 3d of June 1665, and his Duchess's subsequent journey into the north, furnished Dryden with the subject of a few occasional verses; in which the style of Waller (who came forth with a poem on the same subject) is successfully imitated. In addressing her grace, the poet suppresses all the horrors of the battle, and turns her eyes upon the splendour of a victory, for which the kingdom was indebted to her husband's valour, and her "chaste vows." In these verses, not the least vestige of metaphysical wit can be traced; and they were accordingly censured, as wanting height of fancy, and dignity of words. This criticism Dryden refuted, by alleging, that he had succeeded in what he did attempt, in the softness of expression and smoothness of the measure (the appropriate ornaments of an address to a lady), and that he was accused of that only thing which he could well defend. It seems, however, very possible, that these remarks impelled him to undertake a task, in which vigour of fancy and expression might, with propriety, be exercised. Accordingly, his next poem was of greater length and importance. This is a historical account of the events of the year 1666, under the title of "Annus Mirabilis" to which distinction the incidents which had occurred in that space gave it some title. The poem being in the elegiac stanza, Dryden relapsed into an imitation of "Gondibert," from which he had departed ever since the "Elegy on Cromwell." From this it appears, that the author's admiration of Davenant had not decreased. Indeed, he, long afterwards, bore testimony to that author's quick and piercing imagination; which at once produced thoughts remote, new, and surprising, such as could not easily enter into any other fancy. Dryden at least equalled Davenant in this quality; and certainly excelled him in the powers of composition, which are to embody the conceptions of the imagination; and in the extent of acquired knowledge, by which they were to be enforced and illustrated. In his preface, he has vindicated the choice of his stanza, by a reference to the opinion of Davenant,[47] which he sanctions by affirming, that he had always himself thought quatrains, or stanzas of verse in alternate rhyme, more noble, and of greater dignity, both for sound and number, than any other verse in use among us. By this attention to sound and rhythm, he improved upon the school of metaphysical poets, which disclaimed attention to either; but in the thought and expression itself, the style of Davenant more nearly resembled Cowley's, than that of Denham and Waller. The same ardour for what Dryden calls "wit-writing," the same unceasing exercise of the memory, in search of wonderful thoughts and allusions, and the same contempt for the subject, except as the medium of displaying the author's learning and ingenuity, marks the style of Davenant, though in a less degree than that of the metaphysical poets, and though chequered with many examples of a simpler and chaster character. Some part of this deviation was, perhaps, owing to the nature of the stanza; for the structure of the quatrain prohibited the bard, who used it, from rambling into those digressive similes, which, in the pindaric strophe, might be pursued through endless ramifications. If the former started an extravagant thought, or a quaint image, he was compelled to bring it to a point within his four-lined stanza. The snake was thus scotched, though not killed; and conciseness being rendered indispensable, a great step was gained towards concentration of thought, which is necessary to the simple and to the sublime The manner of Davenant, therefore, though short-lived, and ungraced by public applause, was an advance towards true taste, from the unnatural and frantic indulgence of unrestrained fancy; and, did it claim no other merit, it possesses that of having been twice sanctioned by the practice of Dryden, upon occasions of uncommon solemnity.

The "Annus Mirabilis" evinces a considerable portion of labour and attention; the lines and versification are highly polished, and the expression was probably carefully corrected. Dryden as Johnson remarks, already exercised the superiority of his genius, by recommending his own performance, as written upon the plan of Virgil; and as no unsuccessful effort at producing those well-wrought images and descriptions, which create admiration, the proper object of heroic poetry. The "Annus Mirabilis" may indeed be regarded as one of Dryden's most elaborate pieces; although it is not written in his later, better, and most peculiar style of poetry.

The poem first appeared in octavo, in 1667, and was afterwards frequently reprinted in quarto. It was dedicated to the metropolis of Great Britain, as represented by the lord mayor and magistrates. A letter to Sir Robert Howard was prefixed to the poem, in which the author explains the purpose of the work, and the difficulties which presented themselves in the execution. And in this epistle, as a contrast between the smooth and easy style of writing which was proper in addressing a lady, and the exalted style of heroic, or at least historical, poetry, he introduces the verses to the Duchess of York, already mentioned.

The "Annus Mirabilis" being the last poetical work of any importance produced by our author, until "Absalom and Achitophel," the reader may here pause, and consider, in the progressive improvement of Dryden, the gradual renovation of public taste. The irregular pindaric ode was now abandoned to Arwaker, Behn, Durfey, and a few inferior authors; who either from its tempting facility of execution, or from an affected admiration of old times and fashions, still pestered the public with imitations of Cowley. The rough measure of Donne (if it had any pretension to be called a measure) was no longer tolerated, and it was expected, even of those who wrote satires, lampoons, and occasional verses, that their rhymes should be rhymes, both to the ear and eye; and that they should neither adore their mistresses nor abuse their neighbours, in lines which differed only from prose in the fashion of printing. Thus the measure used by Rochester, Buckingham Sheffield, Sedley, and other satirists, if not polished or harmonized, approaches more nearly to modern verse, than that of Hall or Donne. In the "Elegy on Cromwell," and the "Annus Mirabilis," Dryden followed Davenant, who abridged, if he did not explode, the quaintnesses of his predecessors. In "Astroea Redux" and his occasional verses to Dr. Charlton, the Duchess of York, and others, the poet proposed a separate and simpler model, more dignified than that of Suckling or Waller; more harmonious in measure, and chaste in expression, than those of Cowley and Crashaw. Much, there doubtless remained, of ancient subtlety, and ingenious quibbling; but when Dryden declares, that he proposes Virgil, in preference to Ovid, to be his model in the "Annus Mirabilis" it sufficiently implies that the main defect of the poetry of the last age had been discovered, and was in the way of being amended by gradual and almost imperceptible degrees.

In establishing, or refining, the latter style of writing, in couplet verse, our author found great assistance from his dramatic practice; to trace the commencement of which is the purpose of the next Section.

FOOTNOTES: [1] [The statements in this paragraph are somewhat rhetorical. Massinger, for instance, was still at Oxford when James ascended the throne, and though he began to write a few years later, his earliest published play now extant appeared nearly twenty years afterwards. But the general drift is untouched.—ED.]

[2] I do not pretend to enter into the question of the effect of the drama upon morals. If this shall be found prejudicial, two theatres are too many. But, in the present woful decline of theatrical exhibition, we may be permitted to remember, that the gardener who wishes to have a rare diversity of a common flower, sows whole beds with the species; and that the monopoly granted to two huge theatres must necessarily diminish, in a complicated ratio, both the number of play-writers, and the chance of anything very excellent being brought forward.

[3] [Scott is here far too harsh. "Euphues" is not a book to be despatched in a note, but the reader may be requested to suspend his judgment until he has read it.—ED.]

[4] Our deserved idolatry of Shakespeare and Milton was equalled by that paid to this pedantic coxcomb in his own time. He is called in the title-page of his plays (for, besides "Euphues," he wrote what he styled "Court Comedies"), "the only rare poet of that time; the witty, comical, facetiously quick, and unparalleled John Lillie." Moreover, his editor, Mr. Blount, assures us, "that he sate at Apollo's table; that Apollo gave him a wreath of his own bays without snatching; and that the lyre he played on had no broken strings." Besides which, we are informed, "Our nation are in his debt for a new English, which he taught them; 'Euphues and his England' began first that language. All our ladies were then his scholars; and that beauty in court who could not parle Euphuism, was as little regarded, as she which now there speaks not French."

[5] So that learned and sapient monarch was pleased to call his skill in politics.

[6] Witness a sermon preached at St. Mary's before the university of Oxford. It is true the preacher was a layman, and harangued in a gold chain, and girt with a sword, as high sheriff of the county; but his eloquence was highly applauded by the learned body whom he addressed, although it would have startled a modern audience, at least as much as the dress of the orator. "Arriving," said he, "at the Mount of St. Mary's, in the stony stage where I now stand, I have brought you some fine biscuits, baked in the oven of charity, carefully conserved for the chickens of the church, the sparrows of the spirit, and the sweet swallows of salvation." "Which way of preaching," says Anthony Wood, the reporter of the homily, "was then mostly in fashion, and commended by the generality of scholars."—Athenae Oxon. vol. i. p.183.

[7] Look at Ben Jonson's "Ode to the Memory of Sir Lucius Carey and Sir H. Morison," and at most of his Pindarics. But Ben, when he pleased, could assume the garb of classic simplicity; witness many of his lesser poems.

[8] In Jonson's last illness, Charles is said to have sent him ten pieces. "He sends me so miserable a donation," said the expiring satirist, "because I am poor, and live in an alley; go back and tell him, his soul lives in an alley." Whatever be the truth of this tradition, we know from an epigram by Jonson, that the king at one time gave him an hundred pounds; no trifling gift for a poor bard, even in the present day.

[9] "About a year after his return out of Germany, Dr. Cary was made bishop of Exeter; and by his removal, the deanery of St. Paul's being vacant, the king sent to Dr. Donne, and appointed him to attend him at dinner the next day. When his majesty was sate down, before he had eat any meat, he said, after his pleasant manner, 'Dr. Donne, I have invited you to dinner; and though you sit not down with me, yet I will carve to you of a dish that I know you love well; for knowing you love London, I do therefore make you dean of Paul's; and when I have dined, then do you take your beloved dish home to your study; say grace there to yourself, and much good may it do you."—WALTON'S Life of Donne.

[10] See his "Verses to Mr. George Herbert, sent him with one of my seals of the anchor and Christ. A sheaf of snakes used heretofore to be my seal, which is the crest of our poor family." Upon the subject of this change of device he thus quibbles:

"Adopted in God's family, and so My old coat lost, into new arms I go; The cross my seal, in baptism spread below, Does by that form into an anchor grow: Crosses grow anchors; bear as thou shouldst do Thy cross, and that cross grows an anchor too," etc.

[11] See his Life, prefixed to his Poems, 12mo, 1677.

[12] It is pleasing to see the natural good taste of honest old Isaac Walton struggling against that of his age. He introduces the beautiful lines,

"Come live with me, and be my love,"

as "that smooth song made by Kit Marlow, now at least fifty years ago." "The milkmaid's mother," he adds, "sung an answer to it, which was made by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger days. They were old-fashioned poetry, but choicely good. I think much better than the strong lines that are in fashion in this critical age."—The Complete Angler, Edit. vi. p. 65.

[13] "A Poem on the Danger Charles I., being Prince, escaped in the Road at St. Andero."

[14] [The Jacobean and Caroline poets, especially Donne and Cowley, require considerable allowance to be made on Scott's judgment by those who are not familiar with them.—ED.]

[15] Fasti Oxon. vol. i. p. 115. Considering John Dryden's marriage with the heiress of a man of knightly rank, it seems unlikely that he followed the profession of a schoolmaster. But Wood could hardly be mistaken in the second circumstance some of the family having gloried in it in his hearing.

[16] See Collins' Baronetage, vol. ii. The testator bequeaths his soul to his Creator, with this singular expression of confidence, "the Holy Ghost assuring my spirit, that I am the elect of God."

[17] Robert Keies, executed 31st January 1606, of whom Fuller, in his Church History, tells the following anecdote:—"A few days before the fatal blow should have been given, Keies, being at Tichmarsh, in Northamptonshire, at his brother-in-law's house, Mr. Gilbert Pickering, a Protestant, he suddenly whipped out his sword, and in merriment made many offers therewith at the heads, necks, and sides, of several gentlemen and ladies then in his company. It was then taken for a mere frolic, and so passed accordingly; but afterwards, when the treason was discovered, such as remembered his gestures thought he practised what he intended to do when the plot should take effect; that is, to hack and hew, kill and destroy, all eminent persons of a different religion from himself."—CAULFIELD's History of the Gunpowder Plot.

[18] The following curious story is told to that effect, in Caulfield's "History of the Gunpowder Plot," p. 67:—

"There was a Mr. Pickering of Tichmarsh-Grove, in Northamptonshire who was in great esteem with King James. This Mr. Pickering had a horse of special note for swiftness, on which he used to hunt with the king. A little before the blow was to be given, Mr. Keies, one of the conspirators, and brother-in-law to Mr. Pickering, borrowed this horse of him, and conveyed him to London upon a bloody design, which was thus contrived:—Fawkes, upon the day of the fatal blow, was appointed to retire himself into St. George's Fields, where this horse was to attend him, to further his escape (as they made him believe) as soon as the Parliament should be blown up. It was likewise contrived, that Mr. Pickering, who was noted for a puritan, should that morning be murdered in his bed, and secretly conveyed away; and also that Fawkes, as soon as he came into St. George's Fields, should be there murdered, and so mangled, that he could not be known; upon which, it was to be spread abroad, that the puritans had blown up the parliament-house; and the better to make the world believe it, there was Mr. Pickering, with his choice horse ready to escape. But that stirred up some, who seeing the heinousness of the fact, and him ready to escape, in detestation of so horrible a deed, fell upon him, and hewed him to pieces; and to make it more clear, there was his horse, known to be of special speed and swiftness, ready to carry him away; and upon this rumour, a massacre should have gone through the whole land upon the puritans.

"When the contrivance of this plot was discovered by some of the conspirators, and Fawkes, who was now a prisoner in the Tower, made acquainted with it, whereas before he was made to believe by his companions, that he should be bountifully rewarded for that his good service to the Catholic cause, now perceiving, that, on the contrary, his death had been contrived by them, he thereupon freely confessed all that he knew concerning that horrid conspiracy, which before all the torments of the rack could not force him to do.

"The truth of this was attested by Mr. William Perkins, who had it from Mr. Clement Cotton, to whom Mr. Pickering gave the above relation."

[19] Erasmus, the poet's immediate younger brother, was in trade, and resided in King-street, Westminster. He succeeded to the family title and estate upon the death of Sir John Dryden, and died at the seat of Canons-Ashby 3d November 1718, leaving one daughter and five grandsons. Henry, the poet's third brother, went to Jamaica, and died there, leaving a son, Richard. James, the fourth of the sons, was a tobacconist in London, and died there, leaving two daughters. Of the daughters, Mr. Malone, after Oldys, says, that Agnes married Sylvester Emelyn of Stanford, Gent.; that Rose married —— Laughton of Calworth, D.D., in the county of Huntington; that Lucy became the wife of Stephen Umwell of London, merchant; and Martha of —— Bletso of Northampton. Another of the daughters was married to one Shermardine, a bookseller in Little Britain; and Frances, the youngest, to Joseph Sandwell, a tobacconist in Newgate-street This last died 10th October 1730, at the advanced age of ninety. She had survived the poet about thirty years. Of the remaining four sisters, no notices occur.

[20] [A few facts of a more precise kind about the contents of this and the foregoing paragraphs may be grouped here. The Rev. H. Pickering was rector of Aldwinkle (the better form) All-Saints from 1507 to 1637, not from 1647 to 1657. This destroys Scott's inference. The error arose from a misreading of his epitaph. "The village" did not strictly belong to Lord Exeter: but he had property in Aldwinkle St. Peter's, and the two parishes are close together, one church being at one end and the other at the other of the joint village. Erasmus Dryden and Mary Pickering were married at the church of Pilton, a very small village between Aldwinkle and Oundle, on October 21, 1630. Dryden was therefore indisputably the eldest son. Blakesley, where his father's property was situated, is not near Aldwinkle or Tichmarsh, which are close together on opposite sides of the river Nene, and about two miles from Thrapston, but near Canons-Ashby on the other side of the county. The estate (of about two hundred acres) was united to that of Canons-Ashby after the death of Dryden's youngest son. But, unlike Canons-Ashby, it does not now belong to the family, having been sold many years ago.—ED.]

[21] "And though no wit ran royal blood infuse, No more than melt a mother to a muse, Yet much a certain poet undertook, That men and manners deals in without book; And might not more to gospel truth belong, Than he (if christened) does by name of John." Poetical Reflections, etc. See vol. ix.

Another opponent of our author calls him

"A bristled Baptist bred, and then thy strain Immaculate was free from sinful stain." The Laureat, vol. x.

[22] Upon a monument, erected by Elizabeth Creed to the poet's memory in the church at Tichmarsh, are these words:—"We boast that he was bred and had his first learning here." [A rival tradition favours Oundle, which had and has a grammar school of merit.—ED.]

[23] The date is not known. That of his admission to Trinity, infra, should be May 18. He matriculated on July 16, and was not elected to his scholarship till October 2.—ED.

[24] [More usually Busby.—ED.]

[25] "I remember (says Dryden, in a postscript to the argument of the third satire of Perseus) I translated this satire when I was a King's scholar at Westminster school, for Thursday night's exercise; and believe, that it, and many other of my exercises of this nature in English verse, are still in the hands of my learned master, the Rev. Dr. Bushby."

[26] The following order is quoted, by Mr. Malone, from the Conclusion-book, in the archives of Trinity College, p. 221.

"July 19, 1652. Agreed, then, That Dryden be put out of Comons, for a fortnight at least; and that he goe not out of the colledg, during the time aforesaid, excepting to sermons, without express leave from the master, or vice-master; and that, at the end of the fortnight, he read a confession of his crime in the hall, at dinner time, at the three ... fellowes table.

"His crime was, his disobedience to the vice-master, and his contumacy in taking his punishment inflicted by him."

[27] Shadwell, in the Medal of John Bayes,

"At Cambridge Brat your scurrilous vein began, Where saucily you traduced a nobleman; Who for that crime rebuked you on the head, And you had been expelled, had you not fled."

[28] He received this degree by dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

[29] Prologue to the University of Oxford.

[30] Jonathan Dryden, elected a scholar from Westminster into Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1656, of which he became fellow in 1662, was author of some verses in the Cambridge Collections in 1661, on the death of the Duke of Gloucester, and the marriage of the Princess of Orange; and in 1662, on the marriage of Charles II., which have been imputed to our author. An order, quoted by Mr. Malone, for abatement of the commencement-money paid at taking the Bachelor's degree, on account of poverty, applies to Jonathan, not to John Dryden.—MALONE, vol. i. p.17, note.

[31] [This letter will be found in its proper place. It is the sole personal utterance in prose, and almost the only biographical fact of importance that we have for the first thirty years of Dryden's life. Upon it, an entirely baseless romance has been built of disappointed love and parental unkindness. There is absolutely no evidence that Dryden ever seriously pretended to his cousin's hand, or that he was rejected, or that this rejection was due to his uncle's influence.—ED.]

[32] Elegy on Lady Haddington, in Corbet's Poems, p. 121. Gilchrist's edition.

[33] Sir John Pickering, father of Sir Gilbert, married Susan, the sister of Erasmus Dryden, the poet's father. But Mary Pickering, the poet's mother, was niece to Sir John Pickering; and thus his son Sir Gilbert was her cousin-german also.

[34] In one lampoon, he is called "fiery Pickering." Walker, in his "Sufferings of the Clergy," prints Jeremiah Stevens' account of the Northamptonshire committee of sequestration in which the character of Pickering, one of the members of that oppressive body, is thus drawn:— "Sir G—— P—— had an uncle, whose ears were cropt for a libel on Archbishop Whitgift; was first a presbyterian, then an independent, then a Brownist, and afterwards an anabaptist. He was a most furious, fiery, implacable man; was the principal agent in casting out most of the learned clergy; a great oppressor of the country; got a good manor for his booty of the E. of R. and a considerable purse of gold by a plunder at Lynn in Norfolk." He is thus characterized by an angry limb of the commonwealth, whose republican spirit was incensed by Cromwell creating a peerage:—"Sir Gilbert Pickering, knight of the old stamp, and of considerable revenue in Northamptonshire; one of the Long Parliament, and a great stickler in the change of the government from kingly to that of a commonwealth;—helped to make those laws of treason against kingship; has also changed with all changes that have been since. He was one of the Little Parliament, and helped to break it, as also of all the parliaments since; is one of the Protector's council (his salary L1000 per annum, besides other places), and as if he had been pinned to this slieve, was never to seek; is become high steward of Westminster; and being so finical, spruce, and like an old courtier, is made lord-chamberlain of the Protector's household or court; so that he may well be counted fit and worthy to be taken out of the House to have a negative voice in the other House, though he helped to destroy it in the king and lords. There are more besides him, that make themselves transgressors by building again the things which they once destroyed." Quoted by Mr. Malone from a rare pamphlet in his collection entitled "A Second Narrative of the late Parliament, 1658."

[35] Like Sir Gilbert Pickering, he was a member of the Northamptonshire committee of sequestration, and his deeds are thus commemorated in Walker's "Sufferings of the Clergy:"—"Sir J—— D——n was never noted for ability or discretion; was a puritan by tenure, his house (Canons Ashby) being an ancient college, where he possessed the church, and abused most part of it to profane uses: the chancel he turned to a barn; the body of it to a corn-chamber and storehouse, reserving one side aisle of it for the public service of prayers, etc. He was noted for weakness and simplicity, and never put on any business of moment, but was very furious against the clergy."

[36] In a satire called "The Protestant Poets," our author is thus contrasted with Sir Roger L'Estrange. In levelling his reproaches, the satirist was not probably very solicitous about genealogical accuracy; as, in the eighth line, I conceive Sir John Dryden to be alluded to, although he is termed our poet's grandfather, when he was in fact his uncle. Sir Erasmus Dryden was indeed a fanatic, and so was Henry Pickering, Dryden's paternal and maternal grandfather; but neither were men of mark or eminence:

"But though he spares no waste of words or conscience, He wants the Tory turn of thorough nonsense, That thoughtless air, that makes light Hodge so jolly;— Void of all weight, he wantons in his folly. No so forced BAYES, whom sharp remorse attends, While his heart loaths the cause his tongue defends; Hourly he acts, hourly repents the sin, And is all over grandfather within: By day that ill-laid spirit checks,—o' nights Old Pickering's ghost, a dreadful spectre, frights. Returns of spleen his slacken'd speed remit, And crump his loose careers with intervals of wit: While, without stop at sense, or ebb of spite, Breaking all bars, bounding o'er wrong and right, Contented Roger gallops out of sight."

[37] This piece was called in, and destroyed by the noble author; but Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, when opposing Lord Grimestone at an election, maliciously printed and dispersed a large impression of his smothered performance, with a frontispiece representing an elephant dancing on the slack rope.

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