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TO THE READER.
The drift of the ensuing discourse was chiefly to vindicate the honour of our English writers, from the censure of those who unjustly prefer the French before them. This I intiinate, lest any should think me so exceeding vain,' as to teach others an art which they understand much better than myself. But if this incorrect Essay, written in the country without the help of books or advice of friends, shall find any acceptance in the world, I promise to myself a better success of the Second Part, wherein I shall more fully treat of the virtues and faults of the English poets, who have written either in this, the epick, or the lyrick way.
? Of the use of adjectives as adverbs, I have given several instances in the Notes on Shakspeare's works. From the present, and various other examples that might be produced, it is evident that his anomalies were the language not only of his own, but a subsequent period ; and were not errors of the press, as has been frequently maintained in the edition of 1793, whenever they happened to stand in the way of any hypothesis of the editor.
It was that memorable day,” in the first summer of the late war, when our navy engaged the Dutch; a day wherein the two most mighty and best appointed fleets which any age had ever seen, disputed the command of the greater half of the globe, the commerce of nations, and the riches of the universe: while these vast floating bodies, on either side, moved against each other in parallel lines, and our countrymen, under the happy conduct of his royal highness, went breaking, by little and little, into the line of the enemies; the noise of the cannon from both navies reached our
Martin Clifford, in his Letters on Dryden's Poems, which, though first published in 4to.in 1687, appear to have been written in 1674, says, that this Essay was “ stollen from Mons. Hedelin, Menardine, and Corneille.” To the latter writer our author frequently acknowledges his obligations.
Lord Bolingbroke, however, told Mr. Spence, as he informs us in his ANECDOTES, that Dryden assured him, -he was more indebted to the Spanish Criticks, than to the writers of any other nation.
i June 3, 1665. .
8 James, duke of York, afterwards James II. VOL. I.
ears about the city,' so that all men being alarmed with it, and in a dreadful suspence of the event, which they knew was then deciding, every one went following the sound as his fancy led him; and leaving the town almost empty, some took towards the park, some cross the river, others down it; all seeking the noise in the depth of silence,
Amongst the rest, it was the fortune of Euge' nius, Crites, Lisideius; and Neander, to be in company together ; three of them persons whom their wit and quality have made known to all the town;' and whom I have chose to hide under these borrowed names, that they may not suffer by so ill a relation as I am going to make of their discourse.
Taking then a barge, which a servant of Lisideius had provided for them, they made haste to shoot the bridge, and left behind them that great fall of waters which hindered them from hearing
9 The engagement between the English and Dutch fleets took place about eight leagues to the east of Leo. stoff, in Suffolk. In this memorable battle, eighteen large Dutch ships were taken, and fourteen others were destroyed ; Opdam, the Dutch admiral, who engaged the duke of York, was blown up beside him, and he and all his crew perished.
"The person hid under the feigned name of EugeNIUS, as we shall presently find, was Charles, earl of Dorset. Crites and LisIdeius, perhaps, were meant to represent Wentworth, earl of Roscommon, and John Sheffield, earl of Mulgrave, afterwards duke of Bucks and Normanby. Under the character of NEANDER, who in the latter part of this Essay appears as a strenuous advocate for rhyming tragedies, our author himself, I conceive, is shadowed.
what they desired : after which, having disengaged themselves from many vessels which rode at anchor in the Thames, and almost blocked up the passage towards Greenwich, they ordered the watermen to let fall their oars more gently; and then, every one favouring his own curiosity with a strict silence, it was not long ere they perceived the air to break about them like the noise of distant thunder, or of swallows in a chimney: those little undulations of sound, though almost vanishing before they reached them, yet still seeming to retain somewhat of their first horrour, which they had betwixt the fleets. After they had attentively listened till such time as the sound by little and little went from them, Eugenius, lifting up his head, and taking notice of it, was the first who congratulated to the rest that happy omen of our nation's victory: adding, that we had but this to desire in confirmation of it, that we might hear no more of that noise, which was now leaving the English coast. When the rest had concurred in the same opinion, Crites, a person of a sharp judgment, and somewhat too delicate a taste in wit, which the world have mistaken in him for ill-nature,' said, smiling
3 ? Prior, who probably was well informed, in the dedi. cation of his Poems to Lionel, earl of Dorset and Middle. sex, tells us, that by EUGENIUS in this Essay, Dryden meant Charles, earl of Dorset, to whom it is addressed. The passage before us, were we not to submit to this authority, would rather lead us to suppose that CRITI: was intended to represent that nobleman:
• The best good man, with the worst-natured muse."
to us, that if the concernment of this battle had not been so exceeding great, he could scarce have wished the victory at the price he knew he must pay for it, in being subject to the reading and hearing of so many ill verses as he was sure would be made on that subject. Adding, that no argument could scape some of those eternal rhymers, who watch a battle with more diligence than the ravens and birds of prey; and the worst of them surest to be first in upon the quarry: while the better able, either out of modesty writ not at all, or set that due value upon their poems, as to let them be often desired and long expected. There are some of those impertinent people of whom you speak, answered Lisideius, who to my knowledge are already so provided, either way, that they can produce not only a panegyrick upon the victory, but, if need be, a funeral elegy on the duke ; wherein, after they have crowned his valour with many laurels, they will at last deplore the odds under which he fell, concluding that his courage deserved a better destiny. All the company smiled at the conceipt of Lisideius; but Crites, more eager than before, began to make particular exceptions against some writers, and said, the publick magistrate ought to send betimes to forbid them ; and that it concerned the peace and quiet of all honest people, that ill poets should be as well silenced as seditious preachers. In my opinion, replied Eugenius, you pursue your point too far; for as to my own particular, I am so great a lover of poesy, that I could wish them all rewarded, who