페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

valuable assistance to his clever young cousin. Shadwell, after taunting Dryden with discreditable flight from Cambridge, next holds him up to scorn as clerk to Sir Gilbert

• The next step of advancement you began,
Was being clerk to Noll's Lord Chamberlain,

A sequestrator and Committee man k.' It is not improbable that Sir Gilbert employed him as his secretary.

Oliver Cromwell died on the 3rd of September, 1658; and Dryden, now in his twenty-seventh year, wrote a poem in honour of his memory. Since he had written the verses to John Hoddesden in 1650, being then an undergraduate at Cambridge, he had written no poetry that is known, and the

Heroic Stanzas' to the memory of the Protector is his first poem of any importance. This poem was published with two others on the same subject by Waller and Sprat. It is written in quatrain stanzas, and is very superior to Dryden's two earlier efforts. When the “Heroic Stanzas' appeared, Richard Cromwell seemed to be firmly established as his father's successor, and Dryden celebrated the peaceful security which the able and vigorous government of the Protector had bequeathed to his country.

• No civil broils have since his death arose,

But faction now by habit does obey;
And wars have that respect for his repose

As winds for halcyons when they breed at sea.
His ashes in a peaceful urn shall rest;

His name a great example stands to show
How strangely high endeavours may be blessed

Where piety and valour jointly go.'
This tranquillity was of short duration. On the meeting of
Parliament in January 1659 it was evident that Richard
Cromwell was unable to rule, and in less than eighteen
months after the publication of the “Heroic Stanzas'
Charles the Second was restored.

& Malone strangely thinks that the last line may apply to Dryden himself, but it is clearly intended for Sir Gilbert Pickering.

Sir Gilbert Pickering, who had been closely and conspicuously connected with both the Protectors, and who had sat as one of the judges at the trial of Charles the First, though not when sentence was given, was lucky to escape with life and with most of his property. He was made incapable of all office, and became a private and powerless man. Dryden, having lost this serviceable benefactor, and not being disposed to sacrifice all advancement to political consistency, became a warm Royalist, and now endeavoured, by zealously espousing the cause of the restored King, to blot out all recollection of his praises of the Protector. "Astræa Redux,' a poem written in celebration of the return of the King, was published before the end of the year, and was quickly followed by two other poems in like strain, a 'Panegyric' addressed to the King on his coronation, and an address to the Lord Chancellor Clarendon, on New Year's Day, 1662. These poems doubtless brought presents of money. Some complimentary verses, addressed by Dryden to Sir Robert Howard, were published in 1660, in the beginning of a volume of Howard's poems, the first of which was a panegyric on the restored King, and the last a panegyric on Monk, his chief restorer, Sir Robert Howard was a younger son of the Earl of Berkshire, who had been constant, with all his family, to the cause of royalty, and had impoverished himself in the cause. Henry Herringman was at this time the fashionable publisher, and published both for Howard and Dryden. Shadwell proceeds, in his vituperative biography, to taunt Dryden with drudgery for Herringman, and with living on Howard.

• He turned a journeyman to a bookseller,
Wrote prefaces to books for meat and drink,
And, as he paid, he would both write and think;
Then, by the assistance of a noble knight,
Thou hadst plenty, ease, and liberty to write:
First like a gentleman he made thee live,
And on his bounty thou didst amply thrivel.'

1. The Medal of John Bayes.'

Theatrical representations, which the austerity of the Puritans had proscribed during the Commonwealth, were now revived, and Dryden immediately turned to play-writing and made it a source of income. After the Restoration, two theatres, and only two, were licensed, one called the King's, which was under the management of Thomas Killigrew, the court wit and a dramatic writer, and the other, the Duke of York's, under the poet laureate, Sir William Davenant. Dryden's first play, “The Wild Gallant,' was produced at the King's Theatre, in February 1663. It was not successful, and he attributed the failure to his boldness in beginning with comedy, which is the most difficult part of dramatic poetry.' A tragi-comedy, 'The Rival Ladies,' brought out in the same year, was better received. Pepys, who had pronounced "The Wild Gallant' so poor a thing as ever he saw in his life,' thought this a very innocent and most pretty witty playm.' The plots of both plays are extravagantly improbable, and coarseness and indecency appear in both. But they pleased the court, perhaps rather on account of than in spite of their demerits; and even the unpopular "Wild Gallant' was specially favoured by Lady Castlemaine, and her royal lover caused it to be several times performed at court. Dryden next assisted Sir Robert Howard in the composition of a tragedy, 'The Indian Queen,' which was acted with great success at the King's Theatre, in January 1664. .

Before “The Indian Queen’ was brought out on the stage, Howard and Dryden had become brothers-in-law. Dryden was married to Lady Elizabeth Howard on the ist of December 1663. This was not a happy marriage. Lady Elizabeth was a woman of violent temper, and had apparently no sympathy with her husband's literary pursuits. Dryden has been taunted by some of the virulent foes of his later life with having been hectored into this marriage by the lady's brothers in order to save her reputation; and there is reason to believe that her conduct before marriage was not

m Diary, February 23, 1663, and August 4, 1664.

irreproachable. If this were so, happiness could hardly be expected.

The success of 'The Indian Queen’ encouraged Dryden to bring out in the following year, 1665, a sequel, under the title of “The Indian Emperor,' and that play was a great success and much advanced Dryden's fame. The Indian Emperor' was published in 1667, with a dedication to the young and beautiful Duchess of Monmouth, the charming Annabel' of · Absalom and Achitophel,' who was an early patroness of Dryden, and whom in his later years he called his first and best patroness n' “The Rival Ladies' had been published with a dedication to the Earl of Orrery, a dramatic writer. “The Wild Gallant' was not published till 1669, when the fame otherwise acquired by Dryden helped to recommend it to favour. He revived “The Wild Gallant' on the stage in 1667.

In the summer of 1665 the Plague broke out in London, and all who could do so fled to the country. Dryden retired to Charlton, in Wiltshire, the seat of his father-in-law, Lord Berkshire, and he remained there for the greater part of eighteen months. During this period of retreat he wrote the “Annus Mirabilis,' the “Essay on Dramatic Poesy,' and the comedy of ‘Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen.

The “Annus Mirabilis,' a poem celebrating the events of the year 1665-6, and describing the war with Holland, the Plague, and the Great Fire of London, was published in 1667. with a dedication to the Metropolis, and a long preface addressed to Sir Robert Howard. This poem is written in the quatrain stanzas in which Dryden had sung the praises of Oliver Cromwell eight years before. In the preface he says,

I have chosen to write my poem in quatrain stanzas of four alternate rhymes, because I have ever judged them more noble and of greater dignity both for sound and numbers than any other verse in use among us.' The minute knowledge of naval matters displayed in the poem was acquired

o Dedication of King Arthur,' to the Marquis of Halifax, 1691.

it appears, for the occasion and under some difficulties. "For my own part,' he says, 'if I had little knowledge of the sea, yet I have thought it no shame to learn, and if I have made some mistakes, it is only, as you can bear me witness, because I have wanted opportunity to correct them, the whole poem being first written and now sent you from a place where I have not so much as the converse of any seaman. In this poem Dryden's skill and force of language is first strikingly remarkable. Some parts of it, and especially the description of the Fire of London, are very fine.

Dryden's next publication was the “Essay on Dramatic Poesy,' also written during his long. residence at Charlton: this was published in 1668. A subject treated of in this essay was the use of rhyme in tragedies, which was now the fashion, and favoured by the King. Dryden had praised rhymed tragedies in his dedication to the Earl of Orrery, of the

Rival Ladies, published in 1664. In the following year Sir Robert Howard published a collection of plays, with a preface, in which, though he had himself done tragedy in rhyme, he' severely criticised Dryden's doctrine. In the “Essay on Dramatic Poesy,' Dryden vindicated his views. The essay was in the form of a conversation between four persons, Eugenius, Lisideius, Crites, and Neander; and under these names were respectively veiled Lord Buckhurst (afterwards Earl of Dorset), Sir Charles Sedley, Sir Robert Howard, and Dryden himself. Neander maintained the cause of rhyme in tragedies, and Crites argued on the other side with inferior force. This led to a literary controversy with Howard, which produced for a time some ill-feeling between the brothers-inlaw, but the estrangement did not last long.

During the ravages of the Plague and Fire the playhouses had been closed. They were re-opened towards the close of 1666, and in the following March ‘Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen,' the play which Dryden had written at Charlton, was brought out at the King's Theatre. It was a great success. Pepys, who was present on the first night, commends 'the regularity of it and the strain of wit,' and is quite enthusiastic in his praises of Nell Gwyn, in the part of

« 이전계속 »