Imágenes de páginas

sons. “To secure one's chastity,” says Bayes, “little more is necessary than to leave off a correspondence with the other sex, which, to a wise man, is no greater a punishment than it would be to a fanatick person to forbid seeing The Cheats and the Committee; or for my lord mayor and aldermen to be interdicted the sight of The London Cuckolds.” This is the general strain, and therefore I shall be easily excused the labour of more transcription. Brown does not wholly forget past transactions: “You began,” says Crites to Bayes, “a very different religion, and have not mended the matter in your last choice. It was but reason that your muse, which appeared first in a tyrant’s quarrel, should employ her last efforts to justify the usurpation of the Hind.” Next year the nation was summoned to celebrate the birth of the prince. Now was the time for Dryden to rouse his imagination, and strain his voice. Happy days were at hand, and he was willing to enjoy and diffuse the anticipated blessings. He published a poem, filled with predictions of greatness and prosperity; predictions of which it is not necessary to tell how they have been verified. A few months passed after these joyful notes, and every blossom of popish hope was blasted for ever by the Revolution. A papist now could be no longer laureat. The revenue which he had enjoyed with so much pride and praise, was transferred to Shadwell, an old enemy, whom he had formerly stigmatised by the name of Og. Dryden could not decently complain that he was deposed; but seemed very angry that Shadwell succeeded him, and has therefore celebrated the intruder's inauguration in a poem exquisitely satirical, called Mac Flecknoe; * of which the Dunciad, * All Dryden's biographers have misdated this poem, which

Mr. Malone's more accurate researches prove to have been published on the 4th of October, 1682. C.

as Pope himself declares, is an imitation, though more extended in its plan, and more diversified in its incidents. * * * It is related by Prior, that lord Dorset, when as chamberlain he was constrained to eject Dryden from his office, gave him from his own purse an allowance equal to the salary. This is no romantick or incredible act of generosity; an hundred a-year is often enough given to claims less cogent by men less famed for liberality. Yet Dryden always represented himself as suffering under a publick infliction ; and once particularly demands respect for the patience with which he endured the loss of his little fortune. His patron might, indeed, enjoin him to suppress his bounty; but, if he suffered nothing, he should not have complained. During the short reign of king James, he had written nothing for the stage,” being in his opinion, more profitably employed in controversy and flattery. Of praise he might perhaps have been less lavish without inconvenience, for James was never said to have much regard for poetry: he was to be flattered only by adopting his religion. Times were now changed : Dryden was no longer the court-poet, and was to look back for support to his former trade; and having waited about two years, either considering himself as discountenanced by the publick, or perhaps expecting a second Revolution, he produced Don Sebastian in 1690; and in the next four years four dramas more. In 1693 appeared a new version of Juvenal and Persius. Of Juvenal he translated the first, third, sixth, tenth, and sixteenth satires; and of Persius the whole work. On this occasion he introduced his two sons to the publick, as nurselings of the muses.

* Albion and Albanius must however be excepted. It.

The fourteenth of Juvenal was the work of John, and the seventh of Charles Dryden. He prefixed a very ample preface, in the form of dedication to lord Dorset; and there gives an account of the design which he had once formed to write an epick poem on the actions either of Arthur or the Black Prince. He considered the epick as necessarily including some kind of supernatural agency, and had imagined a new kind of contest between the guardian angels of kingdoms, of whom he conceived that each might be represented zealous for his charge, without any intended opposition to the purposes of the Supreme Being, of which all created minds must in part be ignorant. This is the most reasonable scheme of celestial interposition that ever was formed. The surprizes and terrors of enchantments, which have succeeded to the intrigues and oppositions of pagan deities, afford very striking scenes, and open a vast extent to the imagination; but, as Boileau observes (and Boileau will be seldom found mistaken), with this incurable defect, that, in a contest between Heaven and Hell, we know at the beginning which is to prevail; for this reason we follow Rinaldo to the enchanted wood with more curiosity than terror. In the scheme of Dryden there is one great difficulty, which yet he would perhaps have had address enough to surmount. In a war justice can be but on one side; and, to entitle a hero to the protection of angels, he must fight in defence of indubitable right. Yet some of the celestial beings, thus opposed to each ether, must have been represented as defending guilt. That this poem was never written, is reasonably to be lamented. It would doubtless have improved our numbers, and enlarged our language; and might perhaps have contributed by pleasing instructions to rectify our opinions, and purify our manners.

What he required as the indispensable condition of such an undertaking, a publick stipend, was not likely in these times to be obtained. Riches were not become familiar to us...; nor had the nation yet learned to be liberal. This plan he charged Blackmore with stealing ; “only,” says he, “the guardian angels of kingdoms were machines too ponderous for him to manage.” In 1694 he began the most laborious and difficult of all his works, the translation of Virgil ; from which he borrowed two months, that he might turn Fresnoy’s Art of Painting into English prose. The preface, which he boasts to have written in twelve mornings, exhibits a parallel of poetry and painting, with a miscellaneous collection of critical remarks, such as cost a mind stored like his no labour to produce them. In 1697 he published his version of the works of Virgil; and that no opportunity of profit might be lost, dedicated the Pastorals to the lord Clifford, the Georgics to the earl of Chesterfield, and the AEneid to the earl of Mulgrave. This economy of flattery, at once lavish and discreet, did not pass without observation. This translation was censured by Milbourne, a clergyman, styled by Pope, “the fairest of criticks,” - because he exhibited his own version to be compared with that which he condemned. His last work was his Fables, published in consequence, as is supposed, of a contract now in the hands of Mr. Tonson, by which he obliged himself, in consideration of three hundred pounds, to finish for the press ten thousand verses. In this volume is comprised the well-known ode on St. Cecilia’s day, which, as appeared by a letter communicated to Dr. Birch, he spent a fortnight in composing and correcting. But what is this to the patience and diligence of Boileau, whose Equivoque, a poem of only three hundred and forty-six lines, took from his life eleven months to write it, and three years to revise. it? Part of his book of Fables is the first Iliad in English, intended as a specimen of a version of the whole. Considering into what hands Homer was to fall, the reader cannot but rejoice that this project went no further. The time was now at hand which was to put an end to all his schemes and labours. On the first of May, 1701, having been some time, as he tells us, a cripple in his limbs, he died, in Gerard street, of a mortifica-. tion in his leg. There is extant a wild story relating to some vexatious events that happened at his funeral, which, at the end of Congreve's Life, by a writer of I know not. what credit, are thus related, as I find the account transferred to a biographical dictionary : “Mr. Dryden dying on the Wednesday morning, Dr. Thomas Sprat, then bishop of Rochester and dean. ef Westminster, sent the next day to the lady Elizabeth Howard, Mr. Dryden’s widow, that he would make a Present of the ground, which was forty pounds, with all the other Abbey fees. The lord Halifax likewise sent to the lady Elizabeth, and Mr. Charles Dryden, her son, that, if they would give him leave to bury Mr. Dryden, he would inter him with a gentleman's private funeral, and afterwards bestow five hundred pounds on a monument in the Abbey; which, as they had no reason to refuse, they accepted. On the Saturday following the company came ; the corpse was put into a velvet hearse; and eighteen mourning coaches, filled with company, attended. When they were just ready to move, the lord Jefferies, son of the lord chancellor Jefferies, with some of his rakish companions, coming by, asked whose funeral it was ; and being

« AnteriorContinuar »