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The piece was rehearsed and performed near thirty times; and according to the author's account, “the dancing, singing, and musick, which were all in the highest perfection, and the graceful action, incomparable beauty and splendid habits of the princesses, whose lustre received no moderate increase from the beauties and rich habits of those ladies who accompanied them, afforded the spectators extraordinary delight."-By the recommendation of Crowne, Rochester's malice was doubly gratified; for beside mortifying Settle, a marked slight was shewn to Dryden, whose office as Poet Laureate it peculiarly was to compose such entertainments for the Court. His feelings, however, on this occasion did not prevent him from writing an Epilogue, which was intended to have been spoken after the representation of this masque at Court, but which, I suppose by Rochester's interference, was rejected.
Soon afterwards, according to the account given by Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, was written the ESSAY ON SATIRE, which is commonly sup
broke, Lady Catharine Herbert, Mrs. Fitzgerald, and Mrs. Frazer, Maid of Honour to the Queen.
Male Dancers, the Duke of Monmouth, Viscount Dunblaine, Lord Daincourt, Mr. Trevor, Mr. Harpe, Mr. Lane.
Performers from the theatres, who acted in the Prologue and in the Choruses, Mr. Hart, Mr. Turner, Mr. Richardson, Mr. Marsh, jun. Mr. Ford, Mrs. Davis, Mrs, Knight, Mrs. Butler.
posed to have been the joint-production of that nobleman and our author. Dr. Lockier, who has already been mentioned, thought that Dryden had the principal hand in this piece, and that Sheffield only made a few verbal alterations:" but an attentive perusal of it will, I think, lead to an opposite conclusion, the very reverse of this statement being, I believe, the truth. To try the character or merits of this poem truly, it should be read in the form in which it originally appeared, and if it be compared with the first copy of the ESSAY ON POETRY, which is indisputably Sheffield's, a great similarity may be observed between them ;idem vultus et color: the same general air, the same looseness of structure, and in many places the same want of precision and harmony, will be found to characterize both poems; defects which never could have proceeded from the pen of our author at this time. Dryden, to whom without doubt the ESSAY ON SATIRE was shewn, might have made a few verbal alterations; but the distance at which they stood from each other, probably pre vented him from objecting to much that he could easily have amended and improved. Though Le Sage had not yet written his entertaining work, and our author had never read the history of the Archbishop of Granada, his sagacity must have taught him not to be too free on this occasion. When the same poem, above thirty years afterwards, fell
6 Spence's ANECdotes.
into the hands of Pope, to whose revision it is known Sheffield submitted his verses' preparatory to a new edition, that great poet being happily placed in a state of independence, was less scrupulous; and accordingly we find in Sheffield's two principal poems innumerable alterations. Let us then try the ESSAY ON SATIRE by this test. If Dryden's hand were to be clearly traced in any part of this poem, it might be expected almost with certainty to be found in the character of Rochester, who had treated him with so much slight. I do not say that our author might not have ventured to suggest an epithet or a hint, in this as well as in other parts of the Essay; but is it credible that when he had attained his utmost excellence of versification, he should have written several of the following lines?
"Rochester I despise for's mere want of wit,
Though thought to have a tail and cloven feet, "For while he mischief means to all mankind, "Himself alone the ill effects does find; "And so, like witches, justly suffers shame, "Whose harmless malice is so much the same.
False are his words, affected is his wit,
"So often does he aim, so seldom hit.
"To every face he cringes, while he speaks,
7 Spence's ANECDOTES.
"For what a Bessus has he always lived,
"The world may well forgive him all his ill,
fault does every penance Falsely he falls into some dangerous noose, "And then as meanly labours to get loose. "A life so infamous is better quitting;
Spent in base injury and low submitting."I'd like to have left out his poetry,
"Forgot by all almost as well as me.
" 'Tis under such a nasty rubbish laid,
"The wretched text deserve no comments here;
'Mongst forty bad, one tolerable line,
"Without expression, fancy, or design."
Such was this character, as it came originally from the hands of the author. If that author had been Dryden, what reason can be assigned, why he should not have given every part of it the polish which it received from the hands of Pope, by whom it appears to have been thus corrected and amended? The censure of Rochester's poetry, it is observable, is wholly omitted:
"Last enter Rochester of sprightly wit,
"Yet not for converse safe, or business fit.
"A gloss he gives to every foul design,
"For (there's the folly that's still mix'd with fear,)
"The world may well forgive him all his ill,
Easily he falls into some dangerous noose: “And then as meanly labours to get loose:
"A life so infamous is better quitting,
In his own edition of this Essay, Sheffield says, it was written in 1675; which, from the circumstances already enumerated, seems sufficently probable. It does not, however, appear to have got abroad in any form till November, 1679, when several manuscript copies having been handed about, one of them fell into Rochester's hands; and he thus speaks of it in a letter to his friend, Henry Saville, which is printed in his Works without a date, but from a circumstance mentioned in it must have been written on the 21st of November,