Slike strani

FOUND TOO LATE. The Essay prefixed to it«On the grounds of Criticism in Tragedy," appears to have been an after-thought; for the play itself was entered at Stationers' Hall by Jacob Tonson, now become our author's bookseller, April 14, 1679, and on the 18th of the following June the Critical Essay was separately registered, having probably been written in the intervening period.

Our author's pension having been withheld for some time, this circumstance, if we are to believe a lampoon of that day,' gave rise to the tragicomedy of THE SPANISH FRIAR: but however he might complain of the tardiness of payment, it is highly improbable that he should thus express his resentment at a delay which he must have known arose solely from the poverty of the Exchequer. It was acted with great success, probably in Feb. 1681-2, for the concluding lines of the Prologue seem to allude to the recent murder of Mr. Thynne on the 12th of the preceding month.


The two Companies of Players called the King's and the Duke's Servants, who had for above twenty years continued a contention detrimental to them

5 THE LAUREAT, folio, 1687.

6" It was excellently acted, (says Downes,) and produced a vast profit to the company." Rosc. ANG. ubi sup. Nokes, the celebrated actor, was much admired in the part of Gomez, and Antony Leigh in that of the Friar; in which character Leigh was drawn at full length by Kneller, for Charles, Earl of Dorset.

both, and, as our author has expressed it, "like monarchs, were nearly ruined by an expensive warfare," in 1682 resolved to cease all further hostilities, and to form themselves into one body. Their coalition took place near the close of this year;' and Dryden furnished the New United Company with a Prologue and Epilogue, which were spoken at the opening of the theatre in DruryLane, Nov. 16, 1682.* On the 30th of the same month was performed for the first time the tragedy of THE DUKE OF GUISE, of which Nat. Lee contributed two-thirds, and Dryden the first scene, the whole fourth act, and the first half, or somewhat more, of the fifth. He likewise furnished, beside the Prologue and Epilogue, as they now appear, another Epilogue' intended to have been spoken in the preceding summer, when this play was forbidden to be acted; which has not been preserved in his works. On the controversy which THE DUKE OF GUISE Occasioned, it is not necessary to dwell, as an account of it may be found in the notes subjoined to the VINDICATION of that piece, which was published about three months afterwards by our author.-The parallel here intended between the leaguers of France and the English and Scottish Covenanters, had been pointed out

* Cibber (APOLOGY, p. 81,) has inaccurately stated that the two companies united in 1684.

* MS. Luttrell.

8 Vindication of THE DUKE OF GUISE, vol. ii. p. 75. 9 A half-sheet in Mr. Bindley's Collection.

many years before by Dr. Ryves in his MERCURIUS RUSTICUs.

Dryden's attachment to the Duke of York, which induced him to revise and new-model this early production of his muse, was manifested some months before in a Prologue on the Duke's return from Scotland, which was spoken before VENICE PRESERVED on the 21st of April, 1682, and another in honour of the Duchess, spoken before the same play on the 31st of the ensuing May. On each of these occasions, Otway furnished an Epilogue. The former of these Epilogues, which is extremely long, and together with the original political Prologue to that tragedy probably occasioned a severe attack on him by Shadwell, has been preserved by Fenton; but of the other I have never seen a copy except the original halfsheet in the collection of Mr. Bindley.

We have now reached the close of that period which may be considered as the third portion of our author's dramatick life. It remains only to take a slight survey of the various contests in which during this period he was engaged with authors and others, the meanest of whom his admirable poetry has rendered immortal.

The Earl of Rochester was, indeed, a poet of a higher class, and wanted not his aid to be remembered. Dr. Johnson expresses some surprise that "Dryden, in the Dedication of MARRIAGE A-LAMODE to this nobleman should have acknowledged him as the defender of his poetry, and the


moter of his fortune, whom yet tradition always represents as his enemy, and who is mentioned by him with some disrespect in the Preface to Juvenal." But a little attention to dates will solve this difficulty. Lord Rochester, in 1668, at the early age of one-and-twenty, had the honour to be appointed a Gentleman of the Bed-chamber to Charles the Second, who took great delight in his company. It is highly probable that the advancement of fortune to which Dryden alludes, was, his contributing, with others, to obtain for him the office of Poet Laureate. Being by his place much about the King, he resided chiefly in London, and the theatre engaged much of his attention. His good sense and good taste could not but have had a strong perception of the excellence of Dryden's poetical talents, to which we may be sure he always did justice in his heart, though at one time he was induced by spleen to speak slightingly of him. In 1673, MARRIAGE A-LA-MODE was dedicated to him; and they were then on such friendly terms as to correspond together, as appears from a letter of Dryden to him, which will be found in a subsequent page. Whether, however, from a jealousy in his nature, which could not endure that the reputation even of those whom he patronized should rise above a certain point, or from caprice, or from whatever other cause, he not only neglected, but ridiculed and endeavoured to depreciate several poets whom he had previously commended and supported. Otway, in the Preface to DON CARLOS,

in 1676, says, he "could never enough acknowledge the unspeakable obligations he had received from the Earl of Rochester, who seemed almost to make it his business to establish that play in the good opinion of the King and his Royal Highness [the Duke of York] :" and in the following year, in the Dedication of TITUS AND BERENICE to the same nobleman, he owns with gratitude, that he had found him a most generous and bountiful patron. Yet of poor Otway in a year or two afterwards, in a SESSION OF THE POETS, Rochester thus writes:

"Tom Otway came next, Tom Shadwell's dear zany,'
"And swears for heroicks he writes best of any;
"DON CARLOS his pockets so amply had fill'd,
"That his mange was quite cur'd, and his lice were
all kill'd.

"But Apollo had seen his face on the stage,
"And prudently did not think fit to engage
"The scum of a playhouse for the prop of an age.

[ocr errors]


In like manner, having raised Crowne into some degree of reputation, in two years afterwards, on his DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM meeting with great success, Rochester withdrew his favour from


Otway appeared on the stage in the part of the King in Mrs. Behn's JEALOUS BRIDEGROOM, which was performed at the Duke's Theatre in 1672; but was so "dash'd," as Downes expresses it, by the fulness of the house," which put him into a tremendous agony, that he was spoiled for an actor." Rosc. ANGL. p. 34.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »