ePub 版

while our argument was serviceable to their interests, they could boast, that the theatres were true protestant; and came insulting to the plays, when their own triumphs were represented*. But let them now assure themselves, that they can make the major part of no assembly, except it be of a meeting-house f. Their tide of popularity is spent;

* Dryden seems here to allude to the triumphant strain in which Shadwell mentions the reception of " The Lancashire Witches:'" "I could not imagine," he says, "till I heard that great opposition was designed against the play a month before it was acted, by a party who, being ashamed to say it was for the sake of the Irish priest, pretended that I had written a satire on the Church of England; and several profest Papists railed at it violently before they had seen it, alleging that for a reason, such dear friends they are to our Church: and, notwithstanding all was put out that could any way be wrested to an offence against the Church, yet they came with the greatest malice in the world to hiss it; and many, that called themselves Protestants, joined with them in that noble enterprise.

"But, for all this, they came resolved to hiss it, right or wrong, and had gotten mercenary fellows, who were such fools they did not know when to hiss; and this was evident to all the audience. It was wonderful to see men of great quality, and gentlemen, in so mean a combination; but, to my great satisfaction, they came off as meanly as I could wish. I had so numerous an assembly of the best sort of men, who stood so generously in my defence for the three first days, that they quashed all the vain attempts of my enemies; the inconsiderable party of hissers yielded, and the play lived in spite of them.

"Had it been never so bad, I had valued the honour of having so many and such friends as eminently appeared for me, above that of excelling the most admirable Jonson, if it were possible to be done by me."

This flourish of exultation contains many things which were doubtless offensive to Dryden's jealousy of dramatic fame, as well as to his political principles. Nor was he probably insensible to the affected praise bestowed on Jonson, whose merit, it was fashionable to say, he had attempted to depreciate.

t The greater, and, perhaps, the most formidable, part of those who now opposed the court, were the remnants of the old fanatics, and the natural current of obedience is, in spite of them, at last prevalent. In which, my lord, after the merciful providence of God, the unshaken resolution, and prudent carriage of the king, and the inviolable duty, and manifest innocence of his royal highness,—the prudent management of the ministers is also most conspicuous. I am not particular in this commendation, because I am unwilling to raise envy to your lordship, who are too just, not to desire that praise should be communicated to others, which was the common endeavour and co-operation of all. It is enough, my lord, that your own part was neither obscure in it, nor unhazardous. And if ever this excellent government, so well established by the wisdom of our forefathers, and so much shaken by the folly of this age, shall recover its ancient splendour, posterity cannot be so ungrateful as

whose religious principles were shocked by the dissolute manners of Charles and his courtiers. These, of course, added little to the force of the party in the theatres, which they never frequented. Shadwell seems to acknowledge this disadvantage in the epilogue to "The Lancashire Witches:"

Our Popes and friars on one side offend.
And yet, alas! the city's not our friend:The city neither like us nor our wit, They say their wives learn ogling in the pit;They're from the boxes taught to make advances,
To answer stolen sighs and naughty glances.
We virtuous ladies some new ways must seek,
For all conspire our playing trade to break.

Hut although the citizens declined to frequent even the plays written on their own side of the question, Armstrong, and the personal followers of Monmouth, were of a gayer complexion, and doubtless, as they were not inferior to the courtiers in the licence assumed by the age, formed the principal part of the audience at the protestant plays. The discovery of the Rye-house Plot broke the strength of this part of the confederacy, and the odium attending that enterprise rendered their opposition to the court in public assemblies both fruitless and dangerous.

to forget those, who, in the worst of times, have for the safeguard of both, have exposed themselves to the malice of false patriots, and the madness of an headstrong rabble. But since this glorious work is yet unfinished, and though we have reason to hope well of the success, yet the event depends on the unsearchable providence of Almighty God, it is no time to raise trophies, while the victory is in dispute; but every man, by your example, to contribute what is in his power to maintain so just a cause, on which depends the future settlement and prosperity of three nations. The pilot's prayer to Neptune was not amiss in the middle of the storm: "Thou mayest do with me, O Neptune, what thou pleasest, but I will be sure to hold fast the rudder." We are to trust firmly in the Deity, but so as not to forget, that he commonly works by second causes, and admits of our endeavours with his concurrence. For our own parts, we are sensible, as we ought, how little we can contribute with our weak assistance. The most we can boast of) is, that we are not so inconsiderable as to want enemies, whom we have raised to ourselves on no other account than that we are not of their number; and, since that is their quarrel, they shall have daily occasion to hate us more. It is not, my lord, that any man delights to see himself pasquined and affronted by their inveterate scribblers; but, on the other side, it ought to be our glory, that themselves believe not of us what they write. Reasonable men are well satisfied for whose sakes the venom of their party is shed on us; because they see, that at the same time our adversaries spare not those to whom they owe allegiance and veneration. Their despair has pushed them to break those bonds; and it is observable, that the lower they are driven, the VOL. VII. B


country, and, more violently they write; as Lucifer and his companions were only proud when angels, but grew malicious when devils. Let them rail, since it is the only solace of their miseries, and the only revenge which, we hope, they now can take. The greatest and the best of men are above their reach; and, for our meanness, though they assault us like footpads in the dark, their blows have done us little harm: we yet live to justify ourselves in open day, to vindicate our loyalty to the government, and to assure your lordship, with all submission and sincerity, that we are

Your Lordship's

Most obedient, faithful servants,

John Dryden.
Nat. Lee.




Our play's a parallel: the Holy League Begot our Covenant: Guisards got the whig:

Whate'er our hot-brained sheriffs did advance, Was, like our fashions, first produced in France;And, when worn out, well scourged, and banished there, Sent over, like their godly beggars, here. Could the same trick, twice played, our nation gull?

It looks as if the devil were grown dull;Or served us up, in scorn, his broken meat, And thought we were not worth a better cheat. The fulsome Covenant, one would think in reason, Had given us all our bellies full of treason;And yet, the name but changed, our nasty nation Chews its own excrements, the Association •.

"Tis true, we have not learned their poisoning way,

For that's a mode but newly come in play;

Besides, your drug's uncertain to prevail, But your true protestant can never fail With that compendious instrument, a flail f.

• The association proposed in parliament was, by the royalists, said to be, a revival of the Solemn League and Covenant. But the draught of an association, found in Lord Shaftesbury's cabinet, and produced on his trial, in which that memorable engagement seems to be pretty closely copied, was probably what our poet alludes lo.

t The protestant flail was a kind of bludgeon, so jointed as to fold together, and lie concealed in the pocket. They are supposed to have been invented to arm the insurgents about this period. In the trial of Braddon and Speke for a misdemeanor, the recorder offered to prove, that Braddon had bragged, that " he was the only inventor of the protestant flails; an instrument you have heard of, gentlemen, and for what use designed." This circumstance was not omitted by Jefferies, in his characteristic address to the prisoner. "But oh what a happiness it was for this sort of people, that they had got Mt Braddon, an honest man and a man of courage, says Mr Speke, a man a propos! and pray, says he to his friend, give him the best advice you can, for he is a man very fit lor the purpose; and pray secure him under a sham name, for I'll undertake there are such designs upon pious Mr Braddon, such contrivances to do him mischief, that, if he had not bad his protestant flail

« 上一頁繼續 »