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DRYDEN: tized by the name of Og. Dryden could not decently complain when 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, as Pope himself declares, is an imitation, though more extended in its plan, and more diversified in its incidents. In 1693, appeared a new version of Juvenal and Persius. Of Juvenal, he translated the first, third, sixth, and sixteenth satires. On this occasion, he introduced his two sons to the public, as nurselings of the muses. The fourteenth of Juvenal was the work of John, and the seventh of Charles Dryden. 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. Dryden also projected an Epic Poem, but the parsimony of his patrons caused him to abandon his design. Of the little encouragement he received he sorely complains, in an
an" Essay on Satire," addressed to the Earl of Dorset, and prefixed to his translation of Juvenal; in which, after mentioning an outline of his plan, he adds——" This I had intended chiefly for the honour of my native country, to which a poet is particularly obliged. Of two subjects, both relating to it, I was doubtful whether I should chuse-that of King Arthur conquering the Saxons, which, being farther distant in time, gives the greater scope to my invention-or that of Edward the Black Prince, in subduing Spain and restoring it to the lawful prince, though à great tyrant, Don Pedro the Cruel, which, for the compass
of time, including only the expedition of one year, for the greatness of the action and its unanswerable event, for the magnanimity of the English hero opposed to the ingratitude of the person whom he restored; and for the many beautiful episodes which I had interwoven with the principal designs, together with the characters of the chiefest English persons (wherein, after Virgil and Spenser, I would have taken occasion to represent my living friends and patrons of the noblest families, and also shadowed the events of future ages in the succession of our imperial line)—with these helps, and those of the machines which I have mentioned, I might perhaps have done as well as some of my predecessors, or at least chalked out a way for others to amend my errors in a like design; but being encouraged only with fair words by King Charles II. my little salary ill paid, and no prospects of a future subsistence, I was then discouraged in the beginning of my attempt: and now age has overtaken me, and want, a more insufferable evil, through the change of the times, has wholly disabled me.” His last work was his fables, published in consequence, as is supposed, of a contract, by which he obliged himself, in consideration of 300l. to finish for the press ten thousand verses. In this volume was contained the 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 the time was now at hand which was to put an end to all his schemes and labours. On the 1st of May, 1701, having been some time a cripple in his limbs, be died in Gerard-street, of a mortification in his leg.
The character of Dryden, as a writer, is thus given by
DRYDEN. Dr. Johnson. “
Dryden may be properly considered as the father of English criticism-as the writer who first taught us to determine upon principles the merit of composition. Of our former poets the greatest dramatist wrote without rule, conducted through life and nature by a genius that rarely misled and never deserted him. As Dryden had studied with great diligence the art of poetry, and enlarged or rectified his notions by experience, perpetually increasing, he had his mind stored with principles and observations. He poured out his knowledge with little labour; for of labour, notwithstanding the multiplicity of bis productions, there is sufficient reason to suspect that he was not a lover. It will be difficult to prove that Dryden ever made any great advances in literature. Yet it cannot be said that his genius is ever unprovided of matter, or that his fancy languishes in penury of ideas. His works abound with knowledge, and sparkle with illustrations. There is scarcely any science or faculty that does not supply him with occasional images, and lucky similitudes every page discovers a mind very widely acquainted both with art and nature, and in full possession of great stores of intellectual wealth. From his prose, Dryden derives only accidental and secondary praise the veneration with which his name is pronounced by every cultivator of English literature, is paid to him as he refined the language, improved the sentiments, and tuned the numbers of English poetry. His chief defects were affectation and negligence. Such is the unevenness of his compositions, that ten lines are seldom found together, without something of which the reader is ashamed. He was no judge of his own pages : he seldom struggled after supreme excellence, but snatched in haste what was within his reach; and when he could content others, was him
self contented. What he had once written, he dismissed from his thoughts; and I believe there is no example to be found of any correction or improvement made by him after publication. The hastiness of his productions might be the effect of necessity; but his subsequent neglect could hardly have any other cause than impatience of study. With all his defects, however, he had more music than Waller, more vigour than Denham, and more nature than Cowley.
Waller was smooth—but Dryden taught to join