« AnteriorContinuar »
other without the city, at once, is something difficult: but this flight is pardonable to some we meet with in Granada: Osmin, speaking of Almanzor, “Who, like a tempest that outrides the wind, “Made a just battle, ere the bodies join'd.” “Pray what does this honourable person mean by a tempest that outrides the wind a tempest that outrides itself? To suppose a tempest without wind, is as bad as supposing a man to walk without feet; for
if he supposes the tempest to be something distinct
from the wind, yet, as being the effect of wind only, to come before the cause is a little preposterous; so that, if he takes it one way, or if he takes it the other, those two ifs will scarcely make one possibility.” Enough of Settle.
Marriage-a-la-Mode (1673) is a comedy dedicated to the earl of Rochester; whom he acknowledges not.
only as the defender of his poetry, but the promoter of his fortune. Langbaine places this play in 1673. The earl of Rochester, therefore, was the famous Wilmot, whom yet tradition always represents as an enemy to Dryden, and who is mentioned by him with sóme disrespect in the preface to Juvenal. The Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery, a comedy, (1673) was driven off the stage, against the opinion, as the anthor says, of the best judges. It is dedicated, in a very elegant address, to sir Charles Sedley; in which he finds an opportunity for his usual complaint ëf hard treatment and unreasonable censure. Amboyna (1673) is a tissue of mingled dialogue in verse and prose, and was perhaps written in less time than The Virgin Martyr: though the author thought not fit either ostentatiously or mournfully to tell how little labour it cost him, or at how short a warning he produced it. It was a temporary performance, written in the time of the Dutch war, to inflame the nation
against their enemies; to whom he hopes, as he declares in his epilogue, to make his poetry not less destructive than that by which Tyrtaeus of old animated the Spartans. This play was written in the second Dutch war, in 1673. Troilus and Cressida (1679) is a play altered from Shakspeare; but so altered, that, even in Langbaine’s opinion, “the last scene in the third act is a masterpiece.” It is introduced by a discourse on “the grounds of criticism in tragedy,” to which I suspect that Rymer’s book had given occasion. The Spanish Fryar (1681) is a tragi-comedy, eminent for the happy coincidence and coalition of the two plots. As it was written against the papists, it would naturally at that time have friends and enemies; and partly by the popularity which it obtained at first, and partly by the real power both of the serious and risible part, it continued long a favourite of the publick. It was Dryden's opinion, at least for some time, and he maintains it in the dedication of this play, that the drama required an alteration of comick and tragick scenes; and that it is necessary to mitigate by alieviations of merriment the pressure of ponderous events, and the fatigue of toilsome passions. “Whoever,” says he, “cannot perform both parts, is but half a writer for the stage.” The Duke of Guise, a tragedy, (1683) written in conjunction with Lee, as Oedipus had been before, seems to deserve notice only for the offence which it gave to the remnant of the covenanters, and in general to the enemies of the court, who attacked him with great violence, and were answcred by him ; though at last he seems to withdraw from the conflict, by transferring the greater part of the blame or merit to his
partner. It happened that a contract had been made
between them, by which they were to join in writing a play: and “he happened,” says Dryden, “to claim ... the promise just upon the finishing of a poem, when . I would have been glad of a little respite—Two-thirds of it belonged to him; and to me only the first scene of the play, the whole fourth act, and the first half, or somewhat more, of the fifth.”
This was a play written professedly for the party of the duke of York, whose succession was then opposed. A parallel is intended between the leaguers of France and the covenanters of England: and this intention produced the controversy.
Albion and Albanius (1685) is a musical drama or opera, written like The Duke of Guise, against the republicans. With what success it was performed, I have not found.* *
The State of Innocence and Fall of Man (1675) is termed by him an opera : it is rather a tragedy in heroick rhyme, but of which the personages are such as cannot decently be exhibited on the stage. Some such production was foreseen by Marvel, who writes thus to Milton :
“Or if a work so infinite be spann’d,
*t is another of his hasty productions; for the heat of his imagination raised it in a month.
This composition is addressed to the princess of Modena, then duchess of York, in a strain of flattery
* Downes says, it was performed on a very unlucky day, viz. that on which the duke of Monmouth landed in the west; and he intimates, that the consternation into which the kingdom was thrown by his event was a reason why it was perform;d but six times, and was if general il, received, H.
which disgraces genius, and which it was wonderful that any man that knew the meaning of his own words could use without self-detestation. It is an attempt to mingle earth and heaven, by praising human excellence in the language of religion. The preface contains an apology for heroick verse and poetick licence; by which is meant not any liberty taken in contracting or extending words, but the use of bold fictions and ambitious figures. The reason which he gives for printing what was never acted cannot be overpassed : “I was induced to it in my own defence, many hundred copies of it being dispersed abroad without my knowledge or consent; and every one gathering new faults, it became at length a libel against me.” These copies, as they gathered faults, were apparently manuscript, and he lived in an age very unlike ours, if many hundred copies of fourteen hundred lines were likely to be transcribed. An author has a right to print his own works, and need not seek an apology in falsehood; but he that could bear to write the dedication felt no pain in writing the preface. Aureng Zebe (1676) is a tragedy founded on the actions of a great prince then reigning, but over nations not likely to employ their criticks upon the transactions of the English stage. If he had known and disliked his own character, our trade was not in. those times secure from his resentment. His country is at: such a distance, that the manners might be. safely falsified, and the incidents feigned; for the remoteness of place is remarked, by Racine, to. afford the same conveniencies to a poet as length of time. This play is written in rhyme, and has the appearance of being the most elaborate of all the dramas. The personages are imperial; but the dialogue is, often domestick, and therefore susceptible of sentiments accommodated to familiar incidents. The complaint of life is celebrated; and there are many other passages that may be read with pleasure. This play is addressed to the earl of Mulgrave, afterwards duke of Buckingham, himself, if not a poet, yet a writer of verses, and a critick. In this address Dryden gave the first hints of his intention to write an epick poem. He mentions his design in terms so obscure, that he seems afraid lest his plan should be purloined, as, he says, happened to him when he told it more plainly in his preface to Juvenal. “The design,” says he, “you know is great, the story English, and neither too near the present times, nor too distant from them.” All for Love, or the World well Lost, (1678) a tra. gedy, founded upon the story of Antony and Cleopatra, he tells us, “is the only play which he wrote for himself:” the rest were given to the people. It is by universal consent accounted the work in which he has admitted the fewest improprieties of style or character; but it has one fault equal to many, though rather moral than critical, that, by admitting the romantick omnipotence of love, he has recommended, as laudable and worthy of imitation, that conduct which, through all ages, the good have censured as vicious, and the bad despised as foolish. ** Of this play the prologue and the epilogue, though written upon the common topicks of malicious and ignorant criticism, and without any particular relation to the characters or incidents of the drama, are deservedly celebrated for their elegance and sprightliIn ess. Limberham, or the Kind Keeper, (1686) is a comedy, which, after the third night, was prohibited as too indecent for the stage. What gave offence was in the