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Grenada, both parts ; Marriage A-la-Mode ; and Love in a Nunnery.
Tyrannic Love, or the Royal Martyr, is written in rhyme, and dedicated to the duke of Monmouth. We are told in the preface that it was finished in seven weeks, with an intention “ to prove, against the ene“ mies of the stage, that patterns of piety decently
represented and equally removed from the extremes “ of superstition and prophaneness, may be of excel“ lent use to second the precepts of religion.” The plot of this tragedy being the martyrdom of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, is taken from Herodian and other historians.
To the first part of the Conquest of Grenada, there is prefixed an essay on Heroic Plays; and the second part is followed by a defence of the epilogue, or an estay on the Dramatic Poetry of the preceding age, in which epilogue he is severe upon Ben. Jonson. These two plays were attacked by one Richard Leigh, an actor of the duke of York's company, in a pamphlet, entitled, « A Censure of the Rota of “ Mr. Dryden's Conquest of Grenada.” This was answered by “The friendly Vindication of Mr.Dryo den from the censure of the Rota. Camb. 1673, 4to. “ Mr. Dryden vindicated, in answer to the Friendly “ Vindication, &c. Lond.410.1673. A Description of " the Academy of the Athenian Virtuosi, 4to. Lond. “ 1673." It was also abused in 1674 by Elkanah Settle, in a 4to pamphlet, entitled, « Notes and In“ terpretations on the Empress of Morocco, revised, “ with some few erratas to be printed instead of the “ postscript, with the next edition of the Conquest “ of Grenada ;" and I fancy this is the same pamphlet mentioned in the Biographia Britannia, under the name of “ Reflections on several of Mr. Dryden's plays, “ particularly on the first and fecond parts of the
Conquest of Grenada, by E. Settle, gent. Lond, “ 1687, 4to." Vol. I.
Settle's Empress of Morocco was performed at the duke's theatre in 1673, and published afterwards with cuts. Some expressions in the preface having made Dryden very angry, he published a 4to pamphlet, called “ Notes and Observations on the Empress of “ Morocco, or some few erratas to be printed in-' “ stead of the sculptures with the second edition of - the play.
In this piece he has treated Settle with a good deal of scurrility, and the latter has not failed to return it, in his reply above mentioned.
Dryden was sensible that both parts of the Conquest of Grenada lay very open to censure ; for in the preface to the Spanish Fryar, written some years after, he says, I remember fome verses of my own Almansor .cry vengeance upon me for their extravagance ; “ all I can say for those passages, which are, I hope, “ not many, is that I knew they'were bad enough to “ please even when I writ them.” Here we see he charges his failings upon the depraved taste of the age, and will not admit them to be laid to the account of his own judgment.
Lord Lansdown thus feconds him in his essay concerning unnatural Flights in Poetry.
Dryden himself, to please a frantic age, " Was forc'd to let his judgment stoop to rage; “ To a wild audience he conform’d his voice,
Comply'd by custom, but not err'd by choice, “ Deem then the people's, not the writer's fin, “ Almansor's rage, and rants of Maximin, “ That fury spent; in each laborious piece “ He vies for fame with antient Rome and Greece."
Marriage A-la-mode is a tragi-comedy, or rather a play made up of two actions; the one serious, the other comic, and not so strongly interwoven, but that they may easily be taken afunder, without much damage being done to either. It is dedicated to the witty earl of Rocheiter, who I suppose, made an ade
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quate return for the compliment, as I have by me a manuscript letter of our author's to that nobleman, written seemingly about this time, which I take, from the tenor of it, to have arisen from such an occasion.
The Asignation, or Love in a Nunnery, a comedy, did not succeed in the representation; and the poet, in his dedication of it to Sir Charles Sedley, says, he knows not whether to charge the miscarriage to the number of his enemies, or the defects of the performance. We have mentioned together the plays laid hold of by the author of the Rehearsal; and, as nearly as we could collect, have disposed them in the order in which they were acted; for they were not printed in that order. If Sir Martin Marr-all, another comedy of our authors, did not appear before the Asignation, it came out at much the same time, as may be gathered from the prologue to a play of Ravenscroft's called the Careless Lovers, in which mention is inade of both these pieces having met with no very kind reception.
In 1673, our author's thirteenth play was exhibited at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane : it was entituled Amboina, or the Cruelties of the Dutch to the English Merchants, a tragedy; and published with a dedication to Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. Though written in a month, it succeeded well on the stage, the subject being very popular, as we were then at war with Holland.
In 1675 he introduced a comedy to the stage, called the Mistaken Husband. It was not his own, though it has been attributed to him ; but he pro-' tected it as an orphan, and embellished it with one scene and an epilugue.
Aureng-Zebe, a tragedy, came out in 1676. The scene lies at Agra in the East-Indies, and is founded on a true story related by several hiitorians, and told at large by Tavernier in his voyages. It is written in rhyme ; and in the dedication to the Earl of
Mulgrave, it is faid that King Charles not only preferred it to all the other dramatic works of our poet, but even had some hand in adjusting the contrivance of it.
The State of Innocence, or the Fall of Man, an opera, taken from Paradise Lost, was published in 1678, but never acted. Many beautiful passages are here transplanted from that excellent poem, and thrown into rhyme. Nat. Lee has prefixed to it a commendatory copy of verses, in which he
some compliments to Dryden, at the expence of the immortal Milton: “ But these," says our author very justly in his Apology for heroic poetry and poetic licence, prefixed to this piece, “ought rather to be esteemed the effect of “ Mr. Lee's love than his deliberate and sober judg.
It is preceded by a dedication to the duchess of York, through which runs a most delicate ftrain of flattery.
All for Love, or the World well loft, a tragedy, appeared the same year; and Dryden himself, in the preface to his translation of Fresnoy's Art of Painting, tells us “ it is the only thing in the dramatic way which “ he ever wrote to please himself.” He was particularly fond of the fine scene in the first act between Anthony and Ventidius. This play is on all hands allowed to be his best : he has strictly regarded the unities of time, place, and action; and has attempted, more than once, to break a lance with Shakespear (whose Anthony and Cleopatra is on the same subject) particularly in the famous description of the queen of Egypt's failing down the Cydnus.
Her galley down the silver Cydnus, &c. How he has succeeded, we shall not here take upon us to decide : in his stile he professes to have imitated that prince of the drama, and on that account he has disincumbered himself of rhyme; not that he condemns that way of writing, which he so long used, but because he looks upon blank verse to be more to his purpose.
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In 16.79 Nat. Lee, and he in conjunction, produced a play called Oedipus, and Langbaine sets it down as one of the best tragedies we have: the contrivance and disposition of the scenery with the first and third acts, were entirely our author's, Lee justly claims the rest. The preface is a critique upon Corneille, the father of the French stage, who had previoufly handled the same story.
Two other of his plays appeared in the same year, viz. Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen ; and Troilus and Creffida, or 'Truth found too late. The latter is an alteration from Shakespear, to whose memory much deference is paid in the preface.
The beginning of this winter, a poem was printed, -called an Effay on Satire, in which Sir William Scroggs, lord chief justice of the King's Bench, Willmot earl of Rochester, the dutchess of Portsmouth, and several other remarkable personages, were treated with
Lord Mulgrave and our author wrote it in conjunction, though the nobleman was ambitious enough to endeavour to engross the honour of it to himself. On account of this performance it is thought that Rochester or the dutchess hired some ruffians, to revenge their quarrel upon the laureat, which gave rise to the following paragraph in a news-paper of those days, called Domestic Intelligence, or News from both City and Country, numbered 49, dated Tuesday, December 23, 1679.
“ On the 18th initant in the evening, Mr. Dry“ den, the great poet, was set upon in Rose-street, “ Covent-garden, by three persons who called him
rogue and son of a whore, knocked him down and dangeroully wounded him: but upon his crying
out murder, they made their escape: it is conceiyso ed they had their pay before hand, and designed
not to rob him, but to execute on him fome “feminine if not popiß vengeance.” In No. 50 of the same paper, dated Friday, September 26, 1679, We find this advertisement.