페이지 이미지


that is not now easily to be explained. Dryden, in his dedication to the earl of Orrery, had defended dramatick rhyme ; and Howard, in the preface to a collection of plays, had censured his opinion. Dryden vindicated himself in his dialogue on dramatick poetry : Howard, in his preface to The Duke of Lerma, animadverted on the vindication; and Dryden, in a preface to The Indian Emperor, replied to the ani. madversions with great asperity, and almost with contumely. The dedication to this play is dated the year in which the Annus Mirabilis was published. Here appears a strange inconsistency; but Langbaine affords some help, by relating that the answer to Howard was not published in the first edition of the play, but was added when it was afterwards reprinted; and as the Duke of Lerma did not appear till 1668, the same year in which the dialogue was published, there was time enough for enmity to grow up between authors, who writing both for the theatre, were naturally rivals.

He was now so much distinguished, that in 1668* he succeeded sir William Davenant as poet-laureat. The salary of the laureat had been raised in favour of Jonson, by Charles the First, from an hundred marks to one hundred pounds a year, and a tierce of wine'; a revenue in those days not inadequate to the conveniencies of life.

The same year, he published his essay on Dramatick Poetry, an elegant and instructive dialogue, in which we are told, by Prior, that the principal character is meant to represent the duke of Dorset. This work seems to have given Addison a model for his Dialogues upon Medals.


* He did not obtain the laurel till Aug. 18, 1670; but, Mr. Malone informs that the patent liad a retrospect, and the salary commenced from the midsummer after D'Arenant's death. C.


Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen, (1668) is a tragi-comedy. In the preface he discusses a curious question, whether a poet can judge well of his own productions ? and determinęs very justly, that, of the plan and disposition, and all that can be reduced to principles of science, the author may depend upon his own opinion ; but that, in those parts where fancy predominates, self-love may easily deceive. He might have observed, that what is good only because it pleases, cannot be pronounced good till it has been found to please.

Sir Martin Mar-all (1668) is a comedy, published without preface or dedication, and at first without the name of the author. Langbaine charges it like most of the rest, with plagiarism ; and observes, that the song is translated from Voiture, allowing however that both the sense and measure are exactly observed.

The Tempest (1670) is an alteration of Shakspeare's play, made by Dryden in conjunction with Davenant ; « whom,” says he, “ I found of so quick a fancy, that nothing was proposed to him in which he could not suddenly produce a thought extremely pleasant and surprising; and those first thoughts of his, contrary to the Latin proverb, were not always the least happy; and as his fancy was quick, so likewise were

; the products of it remote and new. He borrowed not of any other; and his imaginations were such as could not easily enter into any other man."

The effect produced by the conjunction of these two powerful minds was, that to Shakspeare's mon. ster, Caliban, is added a sister-monster, Sycorax ; and a woman, who, in the original play, had never seen a man, is in this brought acquainted with a man that had never seen a woman..

About this time, in 1673, Dryden seems to have had his quiet much disturbed by the success of The Empress of Morocco, a tragedy written in rhyme by Elkanah Settle ; which was so much applauded, as to make him think his supremacy of reputation in some danger. Settle had not only been prosperous on the stage, but, in the confidence of success, had published his play, with sculptures and a preface of defiance. Here was one offence added to another; and, for the last blast of inflammation, it was acted at Whitehall by the court ladies.

Dryden could not now repress those emotions, which he called indignation, and others jealousy ; but wrote upon the play and the dedication such criticism as malignant impatience could pour out in haste.

Of Settle he gives this character : “He's an animal of a most deplored understanding, without reading and conversation. His being is in a twilight of sense, and some glimmering of thought which he can never fashion into wit or English. His style is boisterous and rough-hewn, his rhyme incorrigibly lewd, and his numbers perpetually harsh and ill-sounding. The little talent which he has, is fancy. He sometimes dabours with a thought; but, with the pudder he makes to bring it into the world, 'tis commonly stillborn ; so that, for want of learning and elocution, he will never be able to express any thing either naturally or justly."

This is not very decent; yet this is one of the pages in which criticism prevails over brutal fury. He proceeds : “ He has a heavy hand at fools, and a great felicity in writing nonsense for them. Fools they will be in spite of him. His king, his two empresses, his villain and his sub-villain, nay his hero, have all a certain natural cast of the father-their

[ocr errors]

folly was born and bread in them, and something of the Elkanah will be visible.”

This is Dryden's general declamation ; I will not withhold from the reader a particular remark. Haying gone through the first act, he says, “ to conclude this act with the most rumbling piece of nonsense spoken yet:

“ To flattering lightning our feign'd smiles conform,

Whiclı, back'd with thunder, do but gild a storm. Conform a smile to lightning, make a smile imitate lightning, and flattering lightning: lightning sure is a threatening thing. And this lightning must gild a storm. Now, if I must conform my smiles to lightning, then my smiles must gild a storm too : to gild with smiles, is a new invention of gilding. And gild a storm by being backed with thunder. Thunder is part of the storm; so one part of the storm must help to gild another part, and to help by backing; as if a man would gild a thing the better for being backed, or having a load upon his back. So that here is gilding by conforming, smiling, lightning, backing, and thundering. The whole is as if I should say thus: I will make my counterfeit smiles look like a flattering stone horse, which, being backed with a trooper, does but gild the battle. I am mistaken if nonsense is not here pretty thick sown. Sure the poet writ these two lines a-board some smack in a storm, and being sea-sick, spewed up a good lump of clotted nonsense at once."

Here is perhaps a sufficient specimen ; but as the pamphlet, though Dryden's, has never been thought worthy of republication, and is not easily to be found, it may gratify curiosity to quote it more largely :

Whene'er she bleeds,
He no severer a damnation needs,
That dares pronounce the sentence of her death,
Than the infection that attends that breath.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“That attends that breath.- - The poet is at breath
again ; breath can never escape him; and here he
brings in a breath that must be infectious with pro-
nouncing a sentence; and this sentence is not to be
pronounced till the condemned party bleeds; that is,
she must be executed first, and sentenced after; and
the pronouncing of this sentence will be infectious';
that is, others will catch the disease of that sentence,
and this infecting of others will torment a man's self.
The whole is thus : when she bleeds, thou needest no
greater hell or torment to thyself, than infecting of
others by pronouncing a sentence upon her. What
hodge-podge does he make here ! Never was Dutch
grout such clogging, thick, indigestible stuff. But
this is but à tasie to stay the stomach ; we shall have
a more plentiful wess presently.
“Now to dish up the poet's broth, that I promised:

For when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarg'd,
Of nature's grosser burden we're discharg'd,
Then, gentle as a happy lover's sigh,
Like wand'ring meteors through the air we'll fly,
And in our airy walk as subtle guests,
We'll steal into our cruel fathers' breasts,
There read their souls, and track each passion's sphere,
See how revenge moves there, ambition here;
And in their orbs view the dark characters
Of sieges, ruins, murders, blood, and wars.
We'll blot out all those hideous draughts and write
Pure and white forms; theu with a radient light
Their breasts encircle, till their passions be
Gentle as nature in its infancy;
Till, soften’d by our charms, their furies cease,
And their revenge resolves into a peace.
Thus by our death their quarrel ends,

Whon living we made foes, dead we'll make friends. If this be not a very liberal mess, I will refer myself to the stomach of any moderate guest. And a rare mess it is, far excelling any Westminster white-broth. It is a kind of giblet porridge, made of the giblets of

« 이전계속 »