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In both poems he maintains the same principles, and saw them both attacked by the same antagonist. Elkanah Settle, who had answered Abfalom, appeared with equal courage in opposition to The Medal, and published an answer called The Medal reversed, with so much success in both encounters, that he left the palm doubtful, and divided the suffrages of the nation. Such are the revolutions of fame, or such is the prevalence of fashion, that the man, whose works have not yet been thought to deserve the care of collecting them, who died forgotten in an hospital, and whose latter years were spent in contriving shows for fairs, and carrying an elegy or epithalamium, of which the beginning and end were occasionally va. ried, but the intermediate parts were always the same, to every house where there was a funeral or 'a wedding, might with truth have had inscribed upon his ftone,
Here lies the Rival and Antagonist of Dryden.
Settle was, for his rebellion, severely chastised by Dryden under the name of Doeg, in the second part of Abfalom and Achitophel; and was perhaps for his factious audacity made the city poet, whose annual office was to describe the glories of the Mayor's day. Of these bards he was the last, and seems not much to have deserved even this degree of regard, if it was paid to his political opinions : for he afterwards wrote a panegyrick on the virtues of judge Jefferies; and what more could have been done by the meanest zealot for prerogative? A a 2
Of translated fragments, or occasional poems, to enumerate the titles, or settle the dates, would be tedious, with little use. It may be observed, that, as Dryden's genius was commonly excited by some personal regard, he rarely writes upon a general
Soon after the accession of King James, when the design of reconciling the nation to the Church of Rome became apparent, and the religion of the court gave the only efficacious title to its favours, Dryden declared himself a convert to Popery. This at any other time might have paffed with little cenfure. Sir Kenelm Digby embraced Popery; the two Reynolds reciprocally converted one another *; and Chillingworth himself was a while so entangled in the wilds of controversy, as to retire for quiet to an infallible Church. If men of argument and study can find such difficulties, or fuch motives, as may either unite them to the Church of Rome, or detain them in uncertainty, there can be no wonder that a man, who perhaps never enquired why he was a Protestant, should by an artful and experienced disputant be made a Papist, overborn by the sudden violence of new and unexpected arguments, or deceived by a representation which thews only the doubts on one part, and only the evidence on the other.
That conversion will always be fufpected that apparently concurs with interest. He that never finds
* Dr. John Reynolds, who lived temp. Jac. I. was at firft a zealous Papist, and his brother William as earneft a Proteftant; but, by mutual disputation, each converted the other. See Fuller's Church History, p. 47. book X. H.
his error till it hinders his progress towards wealth or honour, will not be thought to love Truth only for herself. Yet it may easily happen that information may come at a commodious time; and, as truth and interest are not by any fatal necessity at variance, that one may by accident introduce the other. When opinions are struggling into popularity, the arguments by which they are opposed or defended become more known; and he that changes his profefsion would perhaps have changed it before, with the like opportunities of instruction. This was the then state of Popery; every artifice was used to shew it in its fairest form; and it must be owned to be a religion of external appearance sufficiently attractive.
It is natural to hope that a comprehensive is likewise an elevated soul, and that whoever is wife is also honest. I am willing to believe that Dryden, ha un ving employed his mind, active as it was, upon different studies, and filled it, capacious as it was, with other materials, came unprovided to the controversy, and wanted rather skill to discover the right, than virtue to maintain it. But enquiries into the heart are not for man; we must now leave him to his Judge.
The priests, having strengthened their cause by so powerful an adherent, were not long before they brought him into action. They engaged him to defend the controversial papers found in the strong box of Charles the Second ; and, what yet was harder, to defend them against Stillingficet. A a 3
With hopes of promoting Popery, he was em. ployed to translate Maimbourg's History of the League; which he published with a large introduction. His name is likewise prefixed to the English Life of Francis Xavier; but I know not that he ever owned himself the translator. Perhaps the use of his name was a pious fraud, which however seems not to have had much effect; for neither of the books, I believe, was ever popular.
The version of Xavier's Life is commended by Brown, in a pamphlet not written to flatter; and the occasion of it is said to have been, that the Queen, when she solicited a son, inade vows to him as her tutelary saint.
He was supposed to have undertaken to translate Varillas's History of Herefies; and, when Burnet published remarks upon it, to have written an Answer ; upon which Burnet makes the following observation :
." I have been informed from England, that a “ gentleman, who is fanious both for poetry and $ several other things, had spent three months in “ translating M. Varillas's History; but that, as soon 66 as.my Reflections appeared, he discontinued his las bour, finding the credit of his author was gone. “Now, if he thinks it is recovered by his Answer, “ he will perhaps go on with his translation ; and " this may be, for aught I know, as good an enteros tainment for him as the conversation that he had 5 set on between the Hinds and Panthers, and all .66 the rest of animals, for whom M. Varillas may $6 serve well enough as an author: and this history " and that poem are such extraordinary things of
of their « their kind, that it will be but suitable to see so the author of the worst poein become likewise " the translator of the worst history that the age has “ produced. If his grace and his wit improve "s both proportionably, he will hardly find that he “ has gained much by the change he has made, “ from having no religion, to chuse one of the “ worst. It is true, he had somewhat to sink from “ in matter of wit; but, as for his morals, it is “ scarcely possible for him to grow a worse man " than he was. He has lately wreaked his malice “ on me for spoiling his three months labour ; but us in it he has done me all the honour that any man - can receive from him, which is to be railed at by « him. If I had ill-nature enough to prompt me " to with a very bad wish for him, it should be, os that he would go on and finish his translation. “ By that it will appear, whether the English na“ tion, which is the most competent judge in this " matter, has, upon the seeing our debate, profonounced in M. Varillas's favour, or in mine. It is • true, Mr. D. will suffer a little by it; but at " least it will serve to keep him in from other “ extravagances; and if he gains little honour “ by this work, yet he cannot lose so much by it " as he has done by his last employment."
Having probably felt his own inferiority in theological controversy, he was desirous of trying whether, by bringing poetry to aid his arguments, he might become a more efficacious defender of his new profession. To reason in verse was, indeed, one of his powers; but fubtilty and harmony, united, are still feeble, when opposed to truth.
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