페이지 이미지

of England in regard to the Eastern Question, as well as her relations to Russia, becomes distinct and unequivocal. Henceforth there can be no mistaking our intentions; and in watching the action of Russia we shall not be obliged to calculate the possible ulterior results of each step she takes, and to weigh her motives with that suspicion which is the nurse of jealousy. The attitude of England and Russia to one another is now open and avowed, but not necessarily hostile. Fully and unreservedly we have made the engagement that further Russian encroachments on Asiatic Turkey will be prevented by force of arms; and the existence of such an engagement, as has been said by Lord Salisbury, is the best guarantee against the contingency that would bring it into operation. We therefore hail this Treaty as a greater security for peace than anything that has yet occurred in the long-vexed Eastern Question.'

And the same happy policy by which the Government has managed to secure our Eastern Empire, is also more full of hope for Turkey than any of the countless expedients that irresponsible theorists have propounded for her reform. It has been the habit to talk of Turkey as hopelessly effete. There never was a rash dictum more decisively disproved than this has been by the issue of last year's war. Turkey possesses an army which, officered by Englishmen, might prove an invincible bar to foreign encroachment. By a firm administration, guided by English advice, but not overridden by strained imitation of Western models, her internal wounds might be healed. She has resources in soil and climate unequalled in Europe, and which want only the stimulus of English contact for their full development. Guarantees, which bore on their forefront symptoms of suspicion, have been attempted. Russia has made herself the agent of these guarantees. With what effect ? Did England, under the guidance of Liberal Government, better the state of Turkey during the eighteen years that succeeded the Treaty of 1856 ? Did Russia by her agency strengthen the hold of Europe upon Turkey, or make the Eastern Question more easy of solution ? All that has been left undone we have now the opportunity of doing. No task is more fitted to the genius of England than that of replacing misgovernment and oppression by the introduction of those wise and salutary reforms in the administration which, sooner or later, win the respect of every Oriental, and which have made India at the present day a more prosperous and happy country than she ever was under the rule of her native princes.



mat. Chris bave bee under heb

Art. 1.-1. The Critical and Miscellaneous Prose Works of

John Dryden. Now first collected by Edmond Malone.

London, 1800. 2. Life and Works of John Dryden. By Sir Walter Scott, Bart.

8vo. 18 vols. 1821. 3. The Poetical Works of John Dryden. Annotated Aldine

edition. 5 vols. 8vo. 1857. 4. The Poetical Works of John Dryden. Edited, with a Memoir,

revised text, and notes, by W. D. Christie, M.A., of Trinity

College, Cambridge, London. 1870. MHE life of Dryden has yet to be written; but we are at

I last in the possession of ample materials for the task. The editors of his Works have laboured with patient research and honest enthusiasm, under no ordinary difficulties; but these difficulties have been crowned with no ordinary success, and Mr. Christie closes a long line of able and industrious students, who have cheerfully submitted to much drudgery, and who consequently deserve well of the Republic of Letters. Ninetyeight years ago Johnson pronounced that the life of Dryden was likely to remain a blank, that nothing could be known beyond what casual mention and uncertain tradition have supplied. We are now enabled to pronounce with confidence that we know as much of Dryden, of his domestic life, of his personal habits, of his peculiarities, of his character, of his relations with his contemporaries, as we know of any of those accomplished men who lounged away their evenings at Button's, or listened to Swift reading Gulliver's Travels' on Pope's lawn at Twickenham. Indeed we shrewdly suspect that were it possible for Congreye and Addison to converse with a well-informed student of Dryden in the present day, he could communicate many interesting details about their patron which would be altogether new to them ; he could explain many inconsistencies in the great poet's character and conduct, which probably excited a good deal of unsatisfactory speculation at Wills' and at the Vol. 146.—No. 292.


Grecian, and he could show with excusable complacency how careful study will sometimes enable mankind to have a truer insight not into the works only, but into the personal character of a great man nearly two centuries after his death, than was apparently attained by any of those with whom he lived in daily and familiar intercourse.

And here begins our quarrel with the biographers. We are compelled to confess that though they have been eminently successful in bringing fresh material to light, they have failed in the biographer's principal duty. They have not fused their materials into a consistent whole; they have neither arranged nor interpreted ; they have contented themselves with heaping up masses of facts which are simply not chaotic because they are chronological. We shall not, we trust, be guilty of any disrespect to the memory of Malone, whose Memoir has always been the great storehouse for the facts of the poet's life, or of any insensibility to the merits of Messrs. Mitford, Bell, Hooper and others, whose discoveries Mr. Christie has at once summed up and supplemented, if we say that the biography of Dryden has been very imperfectly executed, that hitherto we have been furnished rather with the materials of a good biography than with the biography itself. Sir Walter Scott's Memoir prefixed to the collected edition of the works is still the best we have, but, like all Scott's miscellaneous writings for the booksellers, its graphic vigour is marred too evidently by haste and off-hand judgments, always sensible, but not always accurate. With so many students of Dryden in the field it ought long ago to have been superseded, but we are bound to say that Mr. Christie's Introduction, which represents the last contribution to the biography of Dryden, cannot be pronounced in any way to have superseded it. As a repository of facts lucidly arranged in chronological order it deserves praise. He has availed himself to the full of the labours of his predecessors ; he has added some fresh discoveries of his own, and he has evidently spared no trouble to inform himself from collateral sources of the minutest particulars of the poet's life. His text of the poems is the best we have. For the rest, his work sinks to the level of a school-book. The literary execution is of a decidedly thirdrate order ; * the style is cramped and jejune, the reflections vapid and commonplace, and when he attempts to comment on the more perplexed passages of his author's not very consistent career, his want of insight and his inability to interpret evidence become lamentably apparent. We should in truth be very sorry to think that it is destined to remain the standard biography of one who was himself a model of facile, various, and masculine composition, the best prose writer beyond all question among our poets, the best poet beyond all question among our prose

* By dint of neglecting pronouns, Mr. Christie has managed, within the short compass of seventy-seven pages, to repeat the name of Dryden upwards of siz hundred and thirty times !!



and , Sophor their Englisks of

To Dryden himself we are bound by triple ties of traditional association, of personal interest and of national gratitude. No other name in the annals of literary biography has represented so completely the English character and the English intellect in the fulness of their strength and in the extremity of their weakness. Sophocles was not more essentially an Athenian, Juvenal and Lucan were not more essentially Romans, than Dryden is essentially an Englishman. Nearly two centuries have passed since his coffin was reverently laid by the hands of his contemporaries in the grave of the Father of our Poetry : and through all the shifting vicissitudes of opinion and criticism which have perplexed two hundred years of restless literary energy, no one has ever yet grudged his ashes the proud distinction thus claimed for them. His services had indeed been manifold and splendid. He had determined the bent of a great literature at a great crisis. He had banished for ever the unpruned luxuriance, the essentially uncritical spirit which had marked the literature of Elizabeth and James, and he had vindicated the substitution of a style, which should proceed on critical principles, which should aim at terseness, sententiousness and epigram, should learn to restrain itself, should master the mysteries of selection and suppression. He had rescued our poetry from the thraldom of a school which was labouring, with all the resources of immense learning, practised skill and fine genius, to corrupt taste and pollute style with the vices of Marini and Gongora. He had brought home to us the masterpieces of the Roman Classics, and he had taught us how to understand them. He had given us the true canons of classical translation. He had shown us how our language could adapt itself with precision to the various needs of didactic prose, of lyric poetry, of argumentative exposition, of easy narrative, of sonorous declamation. He had exhibited for the first time in all their fulness the power, ductility, and compass of the heroic couplet; and he had demonstrated the possibility of reasoning closely and vigorously in verse, without the elliptical obscurity of Fulke Greville on the one hand, or the painful condensation of Davies on the other. He had rescued English satire from the semi-barbarous diction which had deformed it while passing successively through the hands of Gascoign, Donne, Hall, Marston, Wither, Cleaveland,

U 2

Marvel; Marvel ; and he had raised it to the level of that superb satirical literature which Quinctilian claimed as the peculiar and exclusive growth of Roman genius. He had reconstructed and popularised the poetry of Romance. He taught us to think naturally and express forcibly. • Perhaps,'observes Johnson, 'no nation ever produced a writer that enriched his language with such a variety of models.' What was said of Rome adorned by Augustus may be applied by an easy metaphor to English poetry embellished by Dryden, lateritiam invenit, marmoream reliquit, he found it brick and he left it marble. His influence on our literature in almost all its branches has indeed been prodigious. He is one of those figures which are constantly before us; and, if his writings in their entirety are not as familiar to us as they were to our forefathers, they are to be traced in ever-recurring allusion and quotation : they have insensibly leavened much of our verse, more of our prose, and almost all our earlier criticism. With the exception of Shakspeare's, there is probably no name so familiar to the student of our literature. His genius has been consecrated by the praises of men who now share his own literary immortality; his writings have been discussed in works which have themselves taken a place among English classics. It would in truth be difficult to name a single writer of distinction between the latter half of the seventeenth century and the commencement of the present, who has not in some form recorded his obligations to him. Wycherly addressed him in a copy of verses, which embody probably the only sincere compliment he ever paid to a fellow-creature. Congreve's prose panegyric glows with a warmth of affectionate eulogy, to which that cold and haughty temper was ordinarily a stranger. Garth, in his admirable preface to Ovid's Metamorphoses,' speaks of him as one of the greatest poets who ever trod on earth, and has defined with a happy precision his various and versatile powers. Addison and Pope forgot their mutual jealousies to unite in loyal homage to the genius of their common master ;* and Gray, in those noble verses in which he ranks him second only to Shakspeare and Milton, was true to the traditions of a long line of illustrious disciples. Churchill, who might with care perhaps have rivalled him as a satirist, dedicates to his memory a fine apostrophe, which seems to kindle with the genius it celebrates. Johnson has discussed his merits in a model of chastened and lucid criticism, and Goldsmith has laid a graceful tribute at his shrine. Nor were Burke and Gibbon silent. Charles Fox not

* There is no good authority for the story circulated by Tonson about Addison and Steele joining in a conspiracy to detract from Dryden's reputation. Where Addison alludes to Dryden it is always in the highest terms.


« 이전계속 »