Slike strani

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. 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 DRYDEN 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 Stanzas

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 consciousness 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.

as a drama



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 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 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




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 rhyme 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 of D'Avenant's Gondibert, was his obvious successor. ment to the AppointHe 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 Elkanah success on his own field. His attack upon the unSettle, fortunate 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 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 transparent disguise of a narrative of Absalom's Publication of 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. ll. 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. 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




It is one


"The Hind

Church of England against the dissenting sects. of the noblest poems of the kind in any language. he must have regretted his outspoken partisanship before very long; for, in 1686, he joined the Church and the of Rome. It is impossible to believe that this was Panther" the mere tergiversation of a courtier, consequent upon (1687). the king's change of faith; although there is an unfortunate and suspicious coincidence between the two events, which goes far to make out a case against Dryden's sincerity. It is not improbable that James II did all that lay in his power to convert his Poet Laureate it is equally probable that the Poet Laureate, not blessed with political prudence, lent a ready car to his solicitations from motives of policy, and was finally convinced by the doctrines which he had at first heedlessly embraced. At any rate, The Hind and the Panther (1687) was a sincere and logical defence of the side which he had adopted; and, as a satire, is second only to Absalom and Achitophel, although its ingenuity is almost unpleasantly farfetched. In the following year came the catastrophe of the Revolution. Under William and Mary no Romanist Dryden's or partisan of absolute monarchy could hope for the fall after royal favour. Dryden was guilty on both counts, the Revoand his position was irretrievable. He had the mortification of seeing Shadwell take his place as Laureate; but even this fall could not arrest his activity or damp his fire. Between 1690 and 1694 he produced five new dramas of various merit. In 1693 appeared his version of Juvenal and Persius, whom he was admirably calculated to translate. It contained the whole of Persius and five select Satires of Juvenal. In addition to these, the seventh Satire and the fourteenth Satire were translated by his two sons, and inserted in the work. Charles, his eldest son, who was responsible for the first of these, became chamberlain to Pope Innocent XII, and, in 1704, while on a visit to England, was drowned in the Thames near Windsor. John, the second, beside his share in this work, was the independent author of a comedy; and a third son, Erasmus Henry, became a Dominican.


From 1694 to 1697 Dryden was employed upon his famous translation of Virgil, the poet to whom, in style and by predilection, he was most nearly akin. This seems to have The "Virbeen one of his most profitable literary ventures, for gil" (1697) he is reported to have made £1200 by it. Although and later he was at this time in his sixty-seventh year, his poems. Virgil was not his last work. In the very year of his death he produced his Tales and Fables, a collection of stories, partly borrowed and modernised from Chaucer, partly versified from Boccaccio. These, strange to relate, exhibit his invention, fire, and power of harmony at their very best; and in this volume appeared not only a specimen translation of the first book of the Iliad, interesting to students of Pope, but that noble and

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