« 上一頁繼續 »
Morpheus! the humble good that dwells
Life of Denham,
page 1 Friendship and å Single Life,
JOHN DRYDEN, one of the most eminent poets that this country has produced, was son of Erasmus Dryden of Tichmersh in Northamptonshire, and born at Aldwinçle, in that county. Being of a genteel family which had long been resident at Canons-Ashby, great attention was paid to his education. He was first put under the care of Dr. Busby at Westminster-school, where he produced some promising verses. In 1650 he became a student of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a bachelor's degree, and occasionally produced fugitive poems, which exhibited no extraordinary in: dications of genius. In 1663 he commenced dramatic writer, but with bad success. Yet, not discourag, ed, he continued to write, and composed, in all, not less than 28 pieces, of various merit: yet scarcely one besides his “ All for Love” has been retained upon the stage. His prefaces, however, are valuable pieces of criticism, while his dedications shew that he sacrificed rather to Pluto than to Apollo. He succeeded to the appointment of Poet Laureat, but his rising celebrity was subjected to the envy of the Earl of Rochester, who advised Mr. Crowne to write a mask for the court, which was properly Dryden's province. He was satirised also by the Duke of Buckingham in that admired piece called the “ Rehearsal.” Dryden however did not suffer these attacks to pass with impunity, for in 1679, he produced his Essay on Satire, containing severe reflections on the Earl of Rochester and the Dutchess of Portsmouth, and in 1681, heintroduced the Earl of Buckingham as Zimri in his Absalom and Achitophel, a portrait calculated to repay with interest; the ridicule thrown on Dryden in the No. 77.
character of Bays. Lord Rochester, who was a coward, immediately hired three men to attack and cudgel Dryden in a coffee-house. In 1682 appeared his Religio Laici, intended as a defence of revealed religion, against deists, papists, &c.
But the temporary nature of these two pieces have brought them to be uninteresting. On the accession of James 2, Dryden, in order to please his patron, found it convenient to change his religion to that of the church of Rome. This conduct exposed him to the ridicule and satire of the wits of the times, particularly T. Browne, Burnet, and Stillingfeet. In 1687 he published his Hind and Panther. It is almost unnecessary to remark that the hind is the church of Rome; the panther, or spotted-beast, the church of England. This piece was humourously exposed by the united labour of Montague Lord Halifax, and of Prior, in - The Hind and Panther, transversed to the story of the Country Mouse and City Mouse. The newly adopted religion of our poet proved of little avail, for on the completion of the Revolution he was disqualified from bearing any office under government, and stripped of the laurel, which was bestowed on Mr. Thomas Shadwell. Lord Dorset behaved with great liberality, for while as chamberlain be dismissed the catholic poet, he allowed him a pension out of his own pocket, equivalent to the royal salary.
The spleen of Dryden was discharged on this occasion upon his successor in Mac-Flecknoe, a satire the severest that has appeared in any country or in any language. So multifarious are Dryden's compositions that a considerable space would be required to enumerate and characterise them. . Had he written nothing besides the Ode to St. Cecilia's Day his name would have been mmortal: "it exhibits," says Johnson, " the high
ést flights of fancy, and the exactest nicety of art.” Soon after his dismissal, he translated father Boghour's life of Xavier, and in 1693 he published a translation of Juvenal and Perseus, assisted by some of his friends. In 1695 he translated into prose Du Fresnoy's Art of Painting. [n 1697 appeared his translation of Virgil, which, in various editions bas commanded public attention, and which, as Pope observes, is, notwithstanding some human errors, the most noble and spirited translation in any language. In 1698 he published his Fables, from Homer, Ovid, Boccase, and Chaucer. This great man died in consequence of an inflammation in his foot, caused by the growing of his nail under the flesh, May 1, 1701, and was interred in Westmioster-Abbey, where a monument was erected over his remains by John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham. It is related in Wilson's Memoirs of Congreve, that Dryden's remains being put into a velvet hearse, attended by 18 mourning coaches, and just ready to move, that lord Jefferys the dissipated son of the notorious chancellor Jefferys, being with some of his rakish companions, insisted that he would have greater honour paid to the remains of the deceased poet, and stopped the funeral. At this time the abbey was lighted up, the ground opened, the choir attending, and the bishop waiting. Jefferys deft the body to the care of an undertaker, but having had no orders, he waited on Jefferys, who alleged that the whole matter had taken place in a drunken fit, and that he knew nothing about it.' Dryden's son Charles applied to Lord Jefferys, to Lord Halifax and to the Bishop of Rochester, who all refused to interfere. Dr. Garth then sent for the corpse to the college of physicians, and procured a subscription. The body was conveyed from the college attended
by a numerous train of coaches. When arrived at the Abbey, there was no light, no organ played, nor was any anthem sung. Two boys preceded the carpse with each a candle, singing anode from Horace, and Dr. Garth pronounced a fine Latin oration over the body. Mr. Charles Dryden afterwards sent a challenge to Lord Jefferys, who did not answer it. He then sent several others, and went frequently himself, without being able to obtain an answer, or gain admittance to him. He watched opportunities of meeting him to the day of his death, but never succeeded.
Dryden had married Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the Earl of Berkshire, who survived him 8 years; by whom he had 3 sons, Charles, John, and Henry. Dryden was a believer in judicial astrology, and calculated the nativities of his children. The eldest became usher of the palace to pope Clement xi, and soon after his return to England was drowned in swimming across the Thames, in 1704. He had written several pieces and translated the 6th of Juvenal's Satires. John was author of " The Husband his own Cuckold," a comedy, printed in 1696. Henry entered into a religious order. The character of Dryden has been very differently drawn by different hands, some of which have exalted it to the highest degree of commendation, and others debased it by the severest censure.
It is certain that if a decision was made from some of his dramatic writings, he might be pronounced a man of the most licentious morals : but if we allow that those “ who live to please, must please to live;" and look back to the licentious age in which he lived, and the pecuniary ne i cessities he suffered, his compliance with the public taste may be pardoned. His principles appear unsteady or that he could readily temporize with the