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No fool could peep abroad, but ready stand
Oh! were your author's principle received,
Our kind relief against a rainy day,
A LETTER TO SIR GEORGE ETHEREGE.*
To you who live in chill degree,
By bringing thither fifty-one, ? “ Juvenal.”
+ Sir George Etherege, a man of wit and pleasure, and a writer of comedies, had obtained by his writings the favour of Mary, the Queen of James II., and was in James's reign appointed successively minister at Hamburg and to the Diet at Ratisbon. The exact date of this poem is not known, but it was written some time during the reign of James II. It appears to have been occasioned by a poetical epistle in the same style from Sir George Etherege to the Earl of Middleton,
Methinks all climes should be alike,
Secretary of State, which is printed in the “Miscellany Poems" (vol. ii, ed. 1716). It would seem from the beginning of the poem, where latitude 53 is mentioned, that Etherege was at Hamburg when this letter was written to him, but in the body of the poem, Ratisbon, where the Diet assembled, is clearly indicated. The commencement of Etherege's letter to Middleton, to which the beginning of Dryden's letter seems to refer, is also difficult to explain geographically : as the change from London to Ratisbon, two degrees further south, would be rather a gain than a loss. Etherege begins :
“Since love and verse as well as wine
Are brisker where the sun does shine,
Than the bright nymphs of gentle Thames.” The latitude of London is 51° 15' N., that of Ratisbon 48° 58', the difference 2 17. Dryden has made a mistake in speaking of latitude 53 ; which would indeed have done for Hamburg, whose latitude is 53. Etherege is said to have been born about 1636; and if his age were now fifty-one, as Dryden says, this poem would have been written in 1697, which is probably the date of its composition. A second poctical epistle from Ethcrege to Middleton in the same style is also printed in the “Miscellany Poems" (vol. ii. of ed. 1716). The diplomatist and his chief, the Secretary of State, seem to have been on very pleasant familiar terms; and it may be concluded that Dryden was a friend of Middleton. Etherege is called “gentle George" in "Mac Flecknoc," 151, and see the compliment to him in the Poem to Congreve, 29. “Quæ regio in terris nostri non plena laboris ?"
VIRG. Æn, i. 460 + It is fabled that Ceres gave Triptolemus her chariot, drawn by two dragons, and that he travelled in it all over the earth, distributing corn to all the inhabitants of the world.
But spite of all these fable-makers,
* Almain, the old English form of Allemagne. It occurs in Dryden's play of “The Assignation." “ The old Almain recreation." (Act 2, sc. 1.)
+ There were three bishops among the Electors, the Bishops of Treves, Cologne, and Mentz.
1 François de Beauvillier. Duc de St. Aignon, a distinguished French soldier and patron of literature, wrote a tragi-comedy called “Bradamante."
Then finish what you have began,
TO MR. SOUTHERN,
ON HIS COMEDY CALLED THE WIVES' EXCUSE.+
Sure there's a fate in plays, and 'tis in vain
• The Duke of Buckingham was taunted with having been ten years employed on "The Rehearsal." A similar taunt occurs in a poem on the Duke
unt occurs in a poem on the Duke in the State Poems," there ascribed, but probably wrongly, to Dryden:
"I come to his farce, which must needs be well done,
For Troy was no longer before it was won,
Since 'tis more than ten years since this farce was begun." + « The Wives' Excuse. or Cuckolds make Themselves." produced in 1602 was Southern's third comedy, and was ill received. Dryden had written the Prologue to Southern's first play, the tragedy of “The Loyal Brother," which had appeared ten years before, when the author was only in his twenty-third year, and which had had immense success. Two comedies by Southern, “The Disappointment, or the Mother in Fashion," and “Sir Anthony Love," had also had great success; and for the first of these Dryden had also furnished the Prologue. In this poem Dryden consoles his friend under his failure, and ascribes the want of success to the bad taste of the audience, and to anything but want of merit in the play. Southern printed the play, prefixing this poem; and he announced that Dryden, in speaking of it, had said that the public had been kind to “Sir Anthony Love," and were only required to be just to this play. He further stated that, on the strength of the merits of this play, Dryden had submitted to him the complction of his own "Cleomenes." Southern was born in 1659 : he died in his eighty-seventh year, in 1746.
1 Compare the poem addressed to Mr. Granville, line 13.
With such good manners, as the Wife* did use,
TO MY DEAR FRIEND, MR. CONGREVE,
ON HIS COMEDY CALLED THE DOUBLE DEALER."
Well then, the promised hour is come at last,
• The Wife in the play, Mrs. Friendall.”
+ Congreve's “Double Dealer" was first acted in November 1693, and was indifferently received on the stage. It was his second play : the first, “The Old Bachelor," had obtained great applause. Dryden had seen “ l'he Old Bachelor” in manuscript, and he had said to Southern, who showed it to him, that he had never seen such a first play, and he aided to adapt it to the stage. The present poem was addressed to Congreve to console and encourage him under the unfavourable reception of " The Double Dealer." This is one of Dryden's best pieces. The praise is sincere. He wrote in a letter to Walsh, which has been preserved, in commendation of this play when it first appeared: “Congreve's Double Dealer' is much censured by the greater part of the town, and is defended only by the best judges, who, you know, are commonly the bravest. Yet it gains ground daily, and has already been acted eight times." The concluding lines of the poem, in which he charges Congreve with the defence of his fame when he is dead, are fine and touching. Congreve fulfilled Dryden's charge by an edition of his plays.
1 Janus, the fabled first King of Italy, who came from Thessaly ; with the aid of Saturn, who, driven by Jupiter from heaven, came to him and shared his throne, he taught the Italians agriculture and other arts,