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'The State of Innocence,' a transformation of Paradise Lost' into an opera, and intended for the stage but never acted, was Dryden's literary work of the year 1674. Aubrey relates that Dryden called on Milton to ask permission to versify his poem, and was dryly told by the blind old man that he might 'tag his verses' if he pleased. “Paradise Lost' had been published five years before, and had not excited enthusiasm. But Dryden had taken a just measure of the poem, and in the preface of his own ‘State of Innocence' he declared it to be undoubtedly one of the greatest, most noble, and sublime poems which either this age or nation has produced.' Shortly after the publication of 'The State of Innocence' Milton died, on the 8th of November, 1674. Dryden's well-known lines on Milton were written fourteen years later, to be printed under his portrait prefixed to an edition of 'Paradise Lost,' published by subscription in 1695 by Jacob Tonson.

• Three poets in three distant ages born
Greece, Italy, and England did adorn.
The first in loftiness of thought surpassed,
The next in majesty, in both the last.
The force of nature could no farther go :
To make a third she joined the former two.'

In the prologue of 'Aurengzebe, or the Great Mogul,' a tragedy produced in 1675, Dryden informed his audience that he had grown tired of rhyme in tragedy and generally dissatisfied with play-writing. Having begun by speaking disparagingly of the play, but, as he said, 'out of no feigned modesty,' he proceeds in this prologue :

• Not that it's worse than what before he writ,
But he has now another taste of wit:
And to confess a truth, though out of time,
Grows weary of his long-loved mistress, Rhyme.
Passion's too fierce to be in fetters bound,
And Nature fies him like enchanted ground.
What verse can do he has performed in this,
Which he presumes the most correct of his;

But spite of all his pride, a secret shame
Invades his breast at Shakespeare's sacred name:
Awed when he hears his godlike Roman rage,
He in a just despair would quit the stage;
And to an age less polished, more unskilled
Does with disdain the foremost honours yield.
As with the greater dead he dares not strive,
He would not match his verse with those who live.
Let him retire betwixt two ages cast,

The first of this and hindmost of the last.' Dryden had now for some time wished to apply himself to the composition of an epic poem: but for this leisure was necessary, and play-writing gave him bread. He explains himself on this subject in the dedication of 'Aurengzebe,' to Sheffield Earl of Mulgrave. He had had an opportunity, through Mulgrave's good offices, of speaking both with the King and the Duke of York of his desire to devote himself to the production of a national epic poem, and he now asked Mulgrave to remind the King of his ambition. Several years later, in 1693, in his ‘Discourse on Satire,' addressed to the Earl of Dorset, he mentions two subjects which he had thought of; one was the conquest of Spain by Edward the Black Prince, and the other King Arthur conquering the Saxons. Dryden's wishes were not gratified by the King. No office was given him which relieved him from the necessity of writing for subsistence. It is however possible that the King may now have granted him the pension of 100l. a year in addition to the salaried offices of Poet Laureate and Historiographer Royal, which it has been lately ascertained that he obtained during the reign of Charles II ; but the date of the grant of the pension is not known

Dryden's next play did not appear for two years after;

* This pension from Charles was first made known by the publication by Mr. R. Bell in 1854 of a treasury warrant of 1684 for payment of arrears; and Mr. P. Cunningham has since published a treasury warrant for payment of a quarter due January 5, 1679. (Johnson's • Lives of the Poets,' Cunningham's edition, vol. i. p. 334, note.)

it was 'All for Love, or the World Well Lost,' the story of Antony and Cleopatra, and it was produced at the King's Theatre in the winter of 1677-8. To the preparation of this tragedy Dryden had devoted more time and labour than usual, and he considered it his best play. All for Love' had great success, and the company gave Dryden the benefit of the third night, to which the terms of his contract did not entitle him. This act of generosity appears to have been ill requited by Dryden; his next play 'Edipus,' written in conjunction with Nathaniel Lee, was given to the Duke's company and brought out at the rival theatre. This was regarded by the King's company as a breach of contract, with the aggravation of ingratitude. He had never fulfilled his engagement to write three plays a year, and indeed had produced on an average less than one a year. The King's company now complained to the Earl of Arlington, the Lord Chamberlain, of Dryden's proceeding as a violation of contract; but there is no sign of their having obtained redress y. Dryden now broke with the King's Theatre, or the King's Theatre with him, and his subsequent plays came out at the rival house. "The Kind Keeper, or Limberham,' a very coarse comedy, followed 'Edipus,' and gave such offence that, after it had been three times acted, Dryden withdrew it. In April 1679, he produced with indifferent success ‘Troilus and Cressida,' an adaptation of Shakespeare's play. 'All for Love,' on its publication, was dedicated to the Earl of Danby, then the chief Minister, 'Limberham,' to Lord Vaughan, a literary nobleman, and 'Troilus and Cressida,' to the Earl of Sunderland, a rising politician and future leading ininister.

As Dryden was returning to his house in Long Acre through Rose Alley, Drury Lane, on the night of the 18th of December, 1679, he was fallen upon and severely beaten by a gang of ruffians. There appears to be little doubt that the

y Almost all our information as to Dryden's partnership in the King's Theatre is derived from this memorial of complaint addressed to the Lord Chamberlain, which is printed in Malone's Life of Dryden, p. 73.

instigator of this cowardly attack was Wilmot Earl of Rochester, who conceived Dryden to be the author of a poem in circulation, an Essay on Satire, in which he was severely attacked. Sheffield Earl of Mulgrave, afterwards Marquis of Normanby and Duke of Buckinghamshire, is now known to have been the author of the poem; but at the time a belief seems to have prevailed that Dryden had written it. It is not impossible that Dryden may have seen the poem before it was put in circulation and given it some revision. Yet it is difficult to believe that Dryden, who was dependent on the King's pleasure for 300l. a year of his income would have been so imprudent as to make himself in any way responsible for a poem in which the King also was severely assailed. It is more likely that the great intimacy which existed at this period between Dryden and Mulgrave is the sole origin of the suspicion. Mulgrave positively asserted in a note in a later edition of the poem that Dryden was entirely innocent of the authorship. In a poem of Rochester's, published the year before, Dryden had been freely and unpleasantly criticised, and Rochester may have expected retaliation and been prone to conclude that Mulgrave's attack on him came from Dryden. These are Rochester's lines in his “ Allusion to the Tenth Satire of the First Book of Horace, published in 1673.

• Well, sir, 'tis granted, I said Dryden's rhymes
Were stol'n, unequal, nay, dull many times.
What foolish patron is there found of his
So blindly partial to deny me this ?
But that his plays, embroidered up and down
With wit and learning, justly pleased the town,
In the same paper I as freely own.
Yet having this allowed, the heavy mass
That stuffs up his loose volumes must not pass.'

A publicly advertised offer of a reward of fifty pounds for the discovery of the offenders failed to furnish any clue to the author of this dastardly assault. This Rose Alley assault became the theme of many taunts from Dryden's bitter adversaries after he threw himself into political controversies 2.

One of Dryden's most successful plays was the Spanish Friar, or the Double Discovery,' a satire on the Roman Catholic priesthood, produced at the Duke's Theatre in 1681, at a time when popular feeling was strongly excited against the Papists, and when the question of the day was the exclusion of the Duke of York from the succession because he was a Roman Catholic.

Dryden's pecuniary resources about this time had become much crippled. Through the poverty of the Treasury, his salary and pension were not paid, and in May 1684 there was a four years' accumulation of arrears. After the production of the 'Spanish Friar, Dryden turned from play-writing (to political satire. His famous political poem 'Absalom and Achitophel,' was published in November 1681. The subject of the poem, Shaftesbury and Monmouth, is said to have been suggested by the King himself. Monmouth, the Absalom of the poem, for whom his father, Charles, had always a tender affection is treated through the poem with great delicacy, but Shaftesbury, who is Achitophel, is truculently and unscrupulously assailed. Together with Shaftesbury, Buckingham, who was now one of the great Protestant opposition to the court, is described in Dryden's happiest vein, under the name of Zimri.

Shaftesbury had been lying in the Tower under a charge of high treason since July 2, 1681, and Dryden's poem was published a very few days before his trial, probably with the deliberate object of inflaming public opinion against him and helping to obtain a condemnation. The poem was published on November 17; on November 24 the bill of indictment

; One of these is worth quoting to illustrate the old pronunciation of aches as a word of two syllables as late as 1680– •Thus needy Bayes, his Rose Street aches past.'

• The Protestant Satire.' Dryden himself pronounced the word in the same manner in his first poem, the • Elegy on Lord Hastings,' written in 1649. Aches rhymes with catches in • Hudibras,' Part II. Canto ii. l. 456; and see also Part III. Canto ii. 1. 407 of ‘Hudibras.'

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