« PrejšnjaNaprej »
Butler is at once intensely concise and abundantly fertile. His expressions, taken singly, have the pregnant brevity of
proverbs ; the richness of his illustrations perpetually Butler's in.
opens new vistas of comic and witty association. dividuality as a satirist. He is as suggestive, in his manner of writing, as
Milton himself. But Milton's method is to convey his imagery by indirect allusion and to leave much to inference: Butler brings to bear upon his satiric pictures an unbounded store of ideas drawn from the most recondite sources. Milton leads the reader's mind to wander through all the realms of nature, philosophy, and art ; Butler brings his stores of knowledge and reading to our very door. It is this marvellous condensation of style, combined with the quaintness of his rhymes, that has made so many of Butler's couplets proverbial in ordinary conversation, so that they are frequently employed by people who perhaps do not know the real origin of these terse witticisms. The contrast of character in Hudibras and Ralpho is, of course, far less dramatic than the contrast between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza ; but there can be nothing more admirable than Butler's distinction between two cognate varieties of pedantry and fanaticism, and the delicately opposed sophistries and equivocations which abound in the arguments between these two representative types. One can hardly expect that Butler, with an object exclusively satirical, should have given the fanatics whom he attacked credit for their nobler qualities; and so we must not be surprised or misled by finding their intense religious zeal transformed into hypocritical greed, and their boundless courage blamed as cowardice. The poem is crowded with allusions to particular persons and events of the Civil War and Commonwealth. Its merits can be fully appreciated only by those who are minutely acquainted with the history of the epoch ; for Butler, like Rabelais, is eminently one of those authors who require to be studied with the help of a commentary. Nevertheless, the mere ordinary reader, although many delicate strokes will escape him, may read Hudibras with considerable delight and profit. Much of the satire may have its specific direction, but a very large proportion will always be applicable as long as there exist in the world hypocritical pretenders to sanctity and quacks in politics and learning. Many of the scenes and conversations will never be out of date-the consultation with the lawyer, the dialogues on love and marriage with the lady, the scenes with Sidrophel, and a multitude of others. There is much in common between Butler and Hogarth : the dresses and manners of Hudibras and the Rake's Progress may be obsolete, and their topical detail superfluous, but the main facts are the same in all ages. And finally, Butler's writings alone will furnish abundant illustrations of all those varieties of wit which Barrow enumerated—the “pat allusion to a known story, the seasonable application of a trivial saying, the playing in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense or the affinity of their sound. Sometimes,” Barrow goes on to say, “it is wrapped in a dress of humorous expression ; sometimes it lurks under an odd similitude ; sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting or cleverly retorting an objection; sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense ; sometimes an affected simplicity ; sometimes a presumptuous bluntness giveth it being ; sometimes it riseth only from a lucky hitting upon what is strange; sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose."
$ 3. A large mass of Butler's miscellaneous writings has been published ; and a curious discovery was made, long after his death, of the commonplace book in which he entered the results of his reading, and such thoughts or Butler's expressions as he intended to work up in his writings. writings. The posthumous miscellanies, published in 1759, consist of prose and verse. In prose there are sketches of a series of characters somewhat in the Theophrastian manner of Earle and Overbury. They are marked by his chief characteristic—his extreme pregnancy of wit and allusion. The poems are in many instances bitter ridicule of the puerile pursuits with which he charges the philosophical investigations of that day, and he is especially severe upon the then recently-founded Royal Society ; but he was certainly unjust to the ardour and success of contemporary research, and confounded with the sublime outburst of experimental philosophy the quackery and pedantry which necessarily accompany all such movements.
$ 4. The great name of John DRYDEN forms the connecting link between the English literature of the seventeenth century and that completely different condition of thought
JOHN and style which was the most immediate result of the VKYDEN Restoration. Speaking generally, his literary life (1631-1700). belongs to the quarter of the century subsequent to the publication of Hudibras. He was born on the 9th of August, 1631, at Aldwinkle All Saints, a village between Oundle and Thrapston in Northamptonshire. Erasmus Dryden, his father, was the younger son of a local baronet, and had himself an estate in the adjoining parish of Tichmarsh. It is supposed that this gentleman was an ardent Puritan and even an Anabaptist; the tradition, however, appears to rest upon the evidence of Dryden's earliest academic pieces. At all events, he sent his son to Westminster, where Busby was then master, and afterwards to Cambridge. In 1650 young Dryden entered at Trinity College with a Westminster scholarship, and proceeded Bachelor of Arts in 1653. At the death of the Lord Protector in 1658 his Heroic Stangas
appeared, full of warm eulogy of the dead ruler and of promise for his own future. Whether his profession was sincere or otherwise, he abandoned his Puritan sympathies at the Restoration and attached himself firmly to the Royalist party. The Royalist spirit must, in any case, have been more congenial to him; and it was from that side only that he could expect any substantial reward. His first effort in this direction was the Astræa Redux, a somewhat fulsome panegyric of the restored prince, written in the half-pagan, half-Christian spirit of the classical student, and grotesquely bringing together the sea-gods and the Prince of Peace. One scarcely wonders that the Royalist wits, who had noticed his praise of Cromwell, lampooned his inconsistency, and that he met with more than his fair share of ridicule. But this was the beginning of.a life filled with vigorous and unremitting literary labour and devoted to the work of composition. The
drama had returned with the Restoration, and plays Beginnings became, more than ever before, the most productive
form of literature. Dryden, with the full conscious
ness of his own defects in dramatic equipment, gave himself up to play-writing, and signed a contract with the king's players, obliging himself to supply them with three dramas every year. If he lacked pathos and was incapable of delicate analysis of character, he possessed wonderful industry and fertility of invention. His twenty-seven dramas, which appeared in rapid succession from The Wild Gallant (1663) to Love Triumphant (1694), are full of brilliant dialogue, striking situations, and romantic and picturesque incidents, and are, above all, distinguished by that power of majestic versification which was his in an unique and consummate degree. In their merits and their faults they are characteristic of the author's peculiar genius and of the taste of his period.
In 1663 Dryden married Lady Elizabeth Howard, a daughter of the Earl of Berkshire. Poets' marriages are not always
happy, and Dryden's wife is said to have been a His marriage.
sour and querulous lady. In his poems he displayed himself, if not as a professed misogynist, at any rate as a foe to marriage ; but this may have been simply in accordance with the usual literary pose of the day, and probably had little to do with his family troubles. Four years later, in 1667, he Publication produced his first great poem, the Annus Mirabilis, of " Annus in which he commemorated the great calamities of
the preceding year, the fire of London and the war (1667).
with the Dutch. That humiliating war was, it is well known, a temporary check upon that maritime supremacy which had been confirmed by the Protectorate. Dryden, however, chose to consider it as the apotheosis of English naval prowess, interlarded his verse with Scriptural and mythological illustrations, pictured the “mighty ghosts" of the Henrys and Edwards looking on at the battle, and showered a whole vocabulary of praise upon the undeserving king and that worst
ment to the
of admirals, the Duke of York. On the other hand, this amazing flattery was conveyed in a style whose vigour, majesty and force proved this poet the rightful heir to the throne of English poetry. His Essay on Dramatic Poesy (1668) formally maintained the superiority of rhyme Defence of in theatrical dialogue, and proclaimed him the theme in champion of the dominant literary party, who were endeavouring to subject the English stage to the rules and principles of French tragedy. He had previously defended the practice in his preface to The Rival Ladies (1664), and afterwards continued to justify his theory in several pieces—for example, in Tyrannic Love (1670), and in Aureng-Żebe (1676). But his good taste eventually relieved him of his self-imposed burden, and he returned to the far finer and more national system of blank verse which was the metrical heritage of the Elizabethan era.
The Annus Mirabilis had been distinctly a stroke of policy: Sir William D'Avenant, the Poet Laureate, died in 1668; and Dryden, who had borrowed for his poem the metre
Appointof D'Avenant's Gondibert, was his obvious successor. He was quickly appointed (1670) Poet Laureate and LaureateHistoriographer to the king, with a salary of £200 ship. a year. The Essay on Dramatic Poesy, which immediately followed this promotion, has thus the importance of a pronouncement ex cathedra. But the honour brought with it an endless series of literary and political troubles. The great contest of his life was a most unworthy squabble with Elkanah Settle, whose Empress of Morocco (acted 1671 ?), a tragedy
Quarrel written in his own favourite medium of rhyme, vexed with him terribly, probably because it obtained a great
Settle, success on his own field. His attack upon the unfortunate dramatist was savage and personal; and, like most attacks of the kind, did its author very little good. Settle made an undeserved fame by the whole proceeding. He answered Dryden in a similar vein of scurrility after the publication of 'that brilliant tragedy, The Conquest of Granada (1672). Rochester, a most erratic patron of letters, introduced him to the Court, where the ladies acted The Empress of Morocco, and, having done so much for him, dropped him as easily as he had taken him up. Settle was quite the worst poet who has ever gained a fictitious eminence. From the favour of the Court he dropped to the position of civic poet ; he finally became a contriver of puppet-plays for vagrant mountebanks, and died in the Charterhouse. Yet Dryden thought fit to cover him with immortal abuse, and stigmatise so wretched a nonentity in a work so great as Absalom and Achitophel! Dryden's quarrels with Buckingham and Rochester, if not so notorious, were
and with more serious. In 1671 Buckingham and some Bucking, others, one of whom, it is said, was Samuel Butler, ham and
Rochester. produced a burlesque called The Rehearsal, which,
originally intended to satirise D'Avenant, was now directed against Dryden. This marked a serious rupture between the Poet Laureate and the party of Court wits. The exact authorship of the Essay upon Satire, circulated in manuscript in 1679, is disputed, and has generally been assigned to Dryden in collaboration with John Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave, and afterwards Duke of Buckinghamshire. The poet had dedicated Aureng-Zebe to him, three years before, and, two years later, sang his praises as the Adriel of Absalom and Achitophel. Whichever of the two was responsible, the Essay upon Satire contained a contemptuous set of lines on Rochester and made insulting references to the Duchess of Portsmouth. The injured parties put their heads together, and, in accordance with the fashionable resentments of the day, hired a number of bravoes, who waylaid the poet and gave him a severe beating. Mulgrave, in his Essay upon Poetry (1682), put the blame on his own shoulders, and spoke of Dryden as “praised and beaten for another's rhymes”; but probability is just as much against as for the truth of this statement. The whole story is characteristic of the social amenities of the time.
The first part of Dryden's noblest and most original poem, Absalom and Achitophel, appeared in 1681. Underneath the Publication of
transparent disguise of a narrative of Absalom's “ Absalom
rebellion against David, he attacked the factious and Achito policy of the Chancellor Shaftesbury (Achitophel), phel" (1681). and his intrigues with the Duke of Monmouth to preclude the Duke of York from the throne. The second part of the poem appeared the year after, but was principally written by Nahum Tate. Dryden contributed two hundred lines, but probably revised the whole into harmony with his own style. Tate introduced his illustrious partner into the poem under the appropriate name of Asaph (part ii. 11. 1037–1048). Absalom and Achitophel was inscribed to the general reader in one of those classic prefaces which are not the least among Dryden's claims to honour. At the very same time he pointed the application of his satire even more acutely by his Medal, a
Satire against Sedition, headed with an apt quotaPoems of
tion from Virgil and preceded by an Epistle to the
Whigs. “To whom,” he asked, can I dedicate this poem with more justice than to you? It is the representation of your own hero ; it is the picture drawn at length, which you admire and prize so much in little.” But he was not altogether engrossed by his rancour against Shaftesbury. In Mac Flecknoe (1682) he made a furious onslaught on a new literary rival, Thomas Shadwell, scattering abuse literally on all hands, and casting obloquy on the memories of those great dramatists, Heywood and Shirley. The poem, in its reckless eloquence and 'malice, is, as it were, a forecast of The Dunciad. His Religio Laici, or a Layman's Faith, belongs also to 1682. Here he speaks as a devout controversialist, defending the