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It is said likewise that Sir Robert Howard was once meant. The design was probably to ridicule the reigning poet, whoever he might be.
Much of the personal satire, to which it inight owe its first reception, is now lost or obscured. Bayes probably imitated the dress, and mimicked the manner, of Dryden ; the cant words which are so often in his mouth may be supposed to have been Dryden's habitual phrases, or customary exclamations. Bayes, when he is to write, is blooded and purged: this, as Lamotte relates himself to have heard, was the real practice of the poet.
There were other strokes in the Rehearsal by which malice was gratified ; the debate between Love and Honour, which keeps prince Volscius in a single boot, is said to have alluded to the misconduct of the duke of Ormond, who lost Dublin to the rebels while he was toying with a mistress.
The earl of Rochester, to suppress the reputation of Dryden, took Settle into his protection, and endeavoured to persuade the publick that its approbation had been to that time misplaced. Settle was a while in high reputation, his Empress of Morocco, having first delighted the town, was carried in triumph to Whitehall, and played by the ladies of the court. Now was the poetical meteor at the highest; the next moment began its fall. Rochester withdrew his patronage; seeming resolved, says one of his biographers, “ to have a “ judgment contrary to that of the town.” Perlaps being unable to endure any reputation beyond a certain height, even when he had himself contributed to raise it. .
Neither criticks nor rivals did Dryden, much mischief, unless they gained from his own temper the power of vexing hin, which his frequent bursts of resentment give reason to suspect. He is always angry at some past, or afraid of some future censure; but he lessens the smarts of liis wounds by the balm of liis own approbation, and endeavours to repel the shafts of criticism by opposing a shield of adamantine confidence.
The perpetual accusation produced against him, was that of plagiarism against which he never attempted any vigorous defence ; for, though he was perhaps sometimes injuriously censured, he would, by denying part of the charge, have confessed the rest; and as his adversaries liad the proof in their own hands, he, who knew that wit had little pover against facts, wisely left, in that perplexity which generally produces, a question which it was his interest to suppress, and which, unless provoked by vindication, few were likely to examine.
Though the life of a writer, from about thirty-fire to sixty-three, may be supposed to have been sufficiently busied by the composition of eight and twen'y pieces for the stage, Dryden found room in the same space for many other. undertakings.
But, how much soever he wrote, he was a least once suspected of writing more; for in 1679 a paper of verses, called an Essay on Satire, was shewn
about in manuscript, by which the earl of Rochester, the dutchess of Portsmouth, and others, were so much provoked, that, as was supposed (for the actors were never discovered), they procured Dryden, whom they suspected as the author, to be waylaid and beaten. This incident is mentioned by the duke of Buckinghamshire, the true writer, in his Art of Poetry; where he says of Dryden,
Though prais'd and beaten for another's rhymes .
His own deserve as great applause sometimes. . His reputation in time was such, that his name was thought necessary to the success of every poetical or literary performance, and therefore he was engagect to contribute something, whatever it might be, to many publications. He prefixed the Life of Polybius to the translation of Sir Henry Sheers; and those of Lucian and Plutarch to versions of their works by different hands. Of the English Tacitus be translated the first book; and, if Gordon be credited, translated it from the French. Such a charge can hardly be mentioned without some degree of indignation; but it is not, I suppose, so much to be inferred, that Dryden wanted the literature necessary to the perusal of Tacitus, as that, considering himself as hidden in a crowd, he had no awe of the publick ; and, writing merely for money, was contented to get it by the nearest way.
In 1630, the Epistles of Ovid being translated by the poets of the tine, among which one was the work of Dryden, and another of Dryden and Lord Mulgrave, it was necessary to introduce them by a preface, and Dryden, who on such occasions was regularly suminoned, prefixed a discourse upon translation, which was then struggling for the liberty that it now enjoys. Why it should find any difficulty in breaking the shackles of verbal interpretation. which must for ever debar it from elegance, it would be difficult to conjecture, were not the power of prejudice every day observed. The authority of Jonson. Sandys, and Holiday, had fixed the judgment of the nation ; and it was not easily believed that a better way could be found than they had taken, though Fanshaw, Denham, Waller, and Cowley, had tried to give examples of a different practice. • In 1681, Dryden became yet more conspicuous by uniting politicks with poetry, in the memorable 'satire called Absalom and Achitophel, written against the faction which, by Lord Shaftesbury's incitement, set the duke of Monmouth at its head..
Of this poem, in which personal satiro was applied to the support of publick principles, and in which therefore every mind was interestsd, the reception was eager and the sale so large, that my father, an old bookseller, told me, he had not known it equalled but by Sacheverell's trial.
The reason of this general perusal Addison has attempted to derive from the delight which the mind feels in the investigation of secrets; and thinks that curiosity to decypher the names procured readers to the poem. There is no
need to enquire why those verses were read, which, to all the attractions of wit, elegance, and harmony, added the co-operation of all the factious passions, and filled every mind with triumph or resentment.
It could not be supposed that all the provocation given by Dryden would be endured without resistance or reply. Both his person and his party were exposed in their turns to the shafts of satile, which, though neither so well pointed nor perhaps so well aimed, undoubtedly drew blood.
Ore of these poems is called Dryden's Saiire on his Myse; ascribed, though, as Pope says, falsely, to Sommers, who was afterwards Chancellor. The poem, whose soever it was, has much virulence, and some spriteliness. The writer tells all the ill that he can collect both of Dryden and his friends.
The poem of Absalom and Achitophel had two answers, now both forgotten; one called Azaria and Hushai ; the other Absalom senior. Of these hostile compositions, Dryden apparently imputes Absalom senior to Selile, by quoting in his verses against him the second line. Azaria and Hushai was, as Wood says, imputed to him, though it is somew bat unlikely that he should write twice on the same occasion. This is a difficulty which I cannot remove, for want of a minuter knowledge of poetical transactions.
The same year he published the Medal, of which the subject is a medal struck on lord Shaftesbury's escape from a prosecution, by the ignoramus of a grand jury of Londoners.
In both poems he maintains the same principles, and saw them both attacked by the same antagonist.- Elkanah Setile, who had answered Absalom, appeared with equal courage in opposition to the Medal, and published an answer called The Medal reversed, with so much suceess in both encounters, that he left the palm doubtful, and divided ibe suffrages of the nation. Such are the revolutions of fame, or such is the prevalence of fashion, that the man wbose 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 contiiving shows for fairs, and carrying an elegy or epithalamium, of which the beginning and end were occasionally varied, but tbe 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 stone,
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 Absalom and Achitophel, and was perhaps for his facrious audacity made the city poet, whose annual office was to describe the glories of the Mayor's day. Of these bårds 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 panegyric on the virtues of judge Jefferies ; and what more could have been done by the meanest zealot for prerogative?
Oftranslated fragments, or occasional poems, to enumerate the titles, or settle the dates, would be redicus, with little usc. It may be observed, that as
Dryden's Dryden's genius was commonly excited by some personal regard, he rarely writes upon a general topick. · Soon after the accession of king fames, 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 passed with little censuré. Sir Kenelo Digly embraced popery; the two Reynolds reciprocally converted one another, and Chilling worth 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 such 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 represcntation which shew's only the doubts on one part, and only the evidence on the other.
That conversion will always be guspected that apparently concurs with interest. He, that never finds 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 profession 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 wise is also honest. I am willing to believe that Dryden, having 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 was yet harder, to defend them against Stillingfleet.
With hopes of promoting Popěry, he was employed to translate Maimbourg's History of the League, which he published with a large introduction. His Vol. I Bь ,
* Dr. John Reynolds, who lived temp. Jac. I, was at first a zealous Papist, and his brother Wil. liam as earnest a Protestant, but by mutual disputation cach converted the other. Vide Fuller's Church History, 047book X. 11.
name is likewise prefixed to the English Life of Francis Xavier; but I knownot 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 Hatter; and the occasion of it is said to have been, that the Queen when she solicited a son, made vows to him as her tutelary saint.
He was supposed to have undertaken to translate Varillas's History of Heresies; 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 famous both “ for poetry and several other things, had spent three months in translating « M. Varillas's History; but that, as soon as my Reflections appeared, he “ discontinued his labour, 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 entertain“ ment for him as the conversation that he had set on between the Hinds and “ Panthers, and all the rest of animals, for whom M. Varillas may serve. “ well enough as an author: and this history and that poem are such extra“ ordinary things of their kind, that it will be but suitable to see the author “ of the worst poem become likewise the translator of the worst history that “ the age has produced. If his grace and his wit improve both proportiona“ bly, 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
scarce 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 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 wish “ a very bad wish for him, it should be, that he would go on and finish his “ translation. By that it will appear, whether the English nation, which " is the most competent judge in this matter, has, upon the seeing our debate, “ pronounced 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 extravagancies; 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 subtlety and harmony united are still feeble, when opposed to truth.
Actuated therefore by zeal for Rome, or hope of fame, he published the Hind and Panther, a poem in which the church of Rome, figured by the