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RYDEN's universal genius, his firmly established reputation, and the glory his memory must always reflect
upon the nation
, that gave him birth, make us ardently wish for a more accurate life of him than any which has hitherto
appeared: nor will, we hope, the learned writers of the Biographica Britannica, nor those of the General Dictionary, be offended with us for thinking, that, even after their labburs; something farther may be done. That we are furnished with some new materials, the judicious reader will easily perceive: where there are wanting, we have endeavoured to be more clear, by being less diffusive, and by avoiding as much as polfible that variety of notes, into which they seem by their plan to have been necessarily led.
The Drydens are a reputable and wealthy family, settled at Canons-Ashby in Northamptonshire ; the chief of which, Erasmus, was by letters patent of James I. dated in November 1619, advanced to the dignity of a Baronet. He, intermarried with the daughter of William Wilkes, Esq; of Hødnel, in Warwickshire; and Erasmus Dryden, of Tichmarsh, in the county of Northampton, Efq; the third son of this marriage, had for his eldest born and heir, by Mary the daughter of John Pickering, D. D. rector of Aldwincle, John, whose life we are now about to write.
John Dryden was born at Aldwincle, near Oundle, August the gth, 1631, and on his father's death came into poffeffion of an estate of 200 l. per ann. He is faid to have been bred an anabaptist, and this may in some measure excuse the praises he has bestowed on Oliver. It redounds to a man's honour to see his errors, and renounce them : there cannot be a stronger proof of judgment and integrity, and we have no reason to doubt Dryden's being afterwards zealousy attached to the Stuart's family, through duty as well as gratitude.
He was bred at Westminster-school, under the great Doctor Busby, being entered a king's scholar: while here he wrote the poem on lord Hastings's death, which is the first in this collection, and translated the Third Satire of Persius, for a Thursday night's exercife. The latter is much the better performance; and it is not unlikely that he retouched it before he permitted it to be published. He says, he believes he left several other poetical exercises in the hands of his learned preceptor. In 1650 he was elected thence a fcholar of Trinity-college, Cambridge. His heroic ftanzas on the death of the Lord Protector, appeared in 1658; and on the restoration he published a poem called Astrea Redux; with another on king Charles the Second's Coronation. On New-year's day 1662, he presented a poem to lord chancellor Hyde ; and the fame year wrote a loose fatire on the Dutch, the first twenty-four lines of which he afterwards prefixed as a prologue to his play of Amboina, with an addition of the ten last lines. The conclusion of this satire beginning
To one well-born th' affront is worse, &c. introduced by four new lines, serve here as an epilogue.
His first play was a comedy called the Wild Gallant, the plot of which, he says, was not originally his own. It was but cooly received, and this convinced him, that for a first attempt in dramatic poetry, co
no usly well
reat hile ith, the erind erhe his ea бic ed em des
medy, which is the most difficult part of it, was a bold one. I suppose it might have been exhibited in 1663; as his second performance of this kind, being a tragi-comedy intitled the Rival Ladies, was brought out in 1664, and published with a dedication to the great Roger earl of Orrery; in which he stands forth as an advocate for writing plays in rhyme. Here he observes, that before the days of Shakespear, lord Buckhurst had written a play in rhyme, entituled, Queen Gorboduc, whereas it was King Gorboduc, the composition blank verse ; and only the two last acts were written by that eminent nobleman ; the author of the three first acts being one Mr. Thomas Norton. These are oversights, in which Langbaine, who misses no opportunity of using our author with asperity, triumphs prodigiously. His arguments were controverted by Sir Robert Howard, in a preface to a volume containing some dramatic pieces; and defended by him in his essay on Dramatic Poesy, which was printed in 1668. A reply to this defence appeared before Sir Robert's Duke of Lerma, and an answer to it is prefixed to our author's Indian Emperor. Here I believe the dispute dropp'd ; in keeping up of which Dryden was not so much to blame, as Langbane in his lives of the Dramatic Poets would fain infinuate; for Sir Robert was certainly the aggressor.
The gentleman last mentioned affifted our author in writing a tragedy called the Indian Queen, which was acted wirh applause in 1665. In the summer of this year he presented the dutchess of York with a copy of verses on the signal victory gained by the duke her husband over the Hollanders at sea, and on her grace's journey into the north.
His fourth play, called the tragedy of the Indian Emperor, or the Conquest of Mexico. by the Spaniards, being the sequel of the Indian Queen, was exhibited in October 1667, and met with prodigi. ous success. It is written in heroic verse or rhyme
he rst as
and dedicated to the dutchefs of Monmouth and Buccleugh.
Sir William D'Avenant joined with Dryden in altering Shakespear's Tempeft. It was presented, with the additional name of the Inchanted Isand, at the duke's theatre in 1667, as appears from the epilogue, and greatly approved of. We are informed in the preface, that the humour of the sailors was of Sir William's writing; and that he invented the character of Hippolito, who never saw a woman, to match with Miranda in Shakespear's Tempest, who never saw a
Sir William D'Avenant dying in April 1668, our author succeeded him as poet-laureat and historio. grapher to the king.
An Evening's Love, or the Mock Astrologer, a co. medy, was exhibited at the theatre royal in 1671, and dedicated to the romantic writing duke of Newcastle ; before it we find a preface, in which the author difcourses upon comedy and farce, and their difference ; passes some strictures upon Ben. Jonson, and then proceeds to defend poets in plagiarism and imitation, when made to good purpose. His arguments on this head are candid and judicious. It was in this memorable year, that the duke of Buckingham fatirized him so severely in the play of the Rehearsal, under the name of Bayes: this character was originally called Bilboa, and intended for Sir Robert Howard ; but the knight was deprived of the compliment by the breaking out of the plague, whereby the exhibition of the piece, which was finished in 1665, was prevented. It must be owned, the ridicule is in many places juft and striking, though Mr. Dryden affects to treat it with great contempt, particularly in the dedication of his translations from Juvenal and Persius to the earl of Dorset, see vol. iv, of this edit. p. 163, near the bottom. The plays of our author ridiculed in this whimsical performance, are, the Wild Gallant; Tyrannic Love, the Conquest of