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of Dr. Johnson, for whom personally, when living, I had the greatest respect and veneration, and for whose writings I have the highest admiration, I hope not to be misunderstood. Such trivial errours can diminish little from the value of his incomparable Lives of the Poets, and (as I have elsewhere observed, but wish to repeat it here,) are merely specks in the finest body of criticism extant in any language.-By the composition of his various heroick plays, THE INDIAN EMPEROR, TYRANNICK LOVE, GRANADA, and AURENG-ZEBE, Dryden had unquestionably enriched his diction, and improved the harmony of his numbers. By the advice of Sir George Mackenzie, one of the Lords of Seffion in Scotland, and author of many learned works, about the year 1672, (as he has himself told us,)+ he read over many of our elder English poets, to improve himself in beautiful turns of words and thoughts; and at that time probably composed an Essay on the Laws of Versification, which it is much to be regretted that Lord Mulgrave dissuaded him from publishing. About that period, therefore, we may presume he attained all the mechanick excellence of English verse.
Thus improved by the example of others, and his own practice, he sat down to the composition of ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL. About fifty years before, Nathaniel Carpenter published at Dublin
4 Vol. iii. p. 212.
* See vol. ii. p. 163, and vol. iii. p. 521.
"ACHITOPHEL, or the Picture of a wicked Politician;" being the substance of three sermons on 2 Sam. xvii. 23, which he had formerly preached at Oxford. This book was printed at Dublin in quarto, in 1627, and again at Oxford in the next year but some objections being made to several passages, which were supposed to favour Arminianism, it was castrated by Laud in various places, and afterwards went through five editions, between 1629 and 1642. "The sceane (says the writer, in a Dedication to Archbishop Usher,) wherein I have bounded my discourse, presents unto your Grace a sacred tragedy, consisting of four chief actors; viz. David, an anointed King, Absolon, an ambitious Prince; Achitophel, a wicked politician; and Cushay, a loyal subject; a passage of history for variety pleasant, for instruction useful, for event admirable." Though, from the number. of editions it went through, this must have been a common book, it may be doubted whether Dryden had ever seen it; for I do not find that he took a single hint from it. Carpenter inveighs in general
• If Dryden had met with this book, he would probably have made some use of the following judicious observation, which contains an eternal truth, peculiarly applicable to our own times :
Envy and detraction, like two venomous serpents, lurk alwaies in the paths of justice, and the best rulers seldom find the freest passage. He that goes about to persuade a multitude they are not so well governed as they ought to be, shall sooner want argument than atten
against the inordinate ambition and subtle practices of Courtiers and Politicians; so that even supposing that his book had fallen into our author's hands, though it might have furnished him with the title, it would detract nothing from the originality, of his poem. His adaptation of the story to Shaftesbury and Monmouth was his own.1 Tate, who was likely to be well informed, relates, that this poem was undertaken at the desire
tion. The reason whereof (as a learned man has observed) is, because the abuses and corruptions in every State most inevitable are, for the most part, sensible to vulgar capacities; but the hindrances of reformation only apparent to men of experienced judgments."
The learned man alluded to, if I remember right, is Bacon.
After Dryden's poem appeared, of which we have two Latin versions, one by Francis Atterbury, afterwards Bishop of Rochester, the other by Dr. Coward,) the parallel between the King and David, and Achitophel and Shaftesbury, was a frequent theme in the pulpit.In a Satire, entitled THE BADGER, published a few months before our author's poem, (July 8, 1681,) we find Shaftesbury thus denominated :
"Some call me Tony, some Achitophel,
"Some Jack-a-dandy, some old Machiavel."
But it was then doubtless known that Dryden was writing a poem on this subject; and Achitophel there, and in some other productions of that day, is used merely to signify a person unfaithful to his prince.
Of the early history of this voluminous versifier, who wore the laurel for four-and-twenty years, very little is
of King Charles the Second in 1680; he means, I conceive, towards the end of the year, that is, in February or March, 1680-81. If I am right in this conjecture, about nine months elapsed between its commencement and completion; for it was not published till the middle of Nov. 1681. It might however have been ready some time before, and some other works perhaps were executed during its progress. On the 28th of March, 1681, the Parlia ment which had been assembled at Oxford, was dissolved, and on the 2d of the following July, Shaftes bury was committed to the Tower, on a charge of High Treason; where he remained above four months. At this critical time, a few days before a bill of indictment was presented against him, appeared the poem of ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL. It was read with such avidity that the first edition was sold in about a month; and a second was issued out before the end of December. Two, if not three, other editions of this piece were published in 1682; and in 1684 a sixth edition ap
known. He was born in Dublin in the year 1652, and bred in Trinity College, as appears from the entry of his admission ::
"30 Junii, 1668. Nahum Teat, Pensionarius, filius Faithful! Teat, Presbyteri, natus annos sexdecim, natus Dublinii, educatus sub magistro Savage, Belfast.-Tutor. Geo. Walker." Regr. Universitat. Dublin. Being called by the less polished of his countrymen, Tate, according to the ordinary Irish pronunciation, he probably, when he came to England, adopted the new spelling of his name.
peared in the first volume of our author's Mis
When Dryden issued his several works from the press, he in general seems to have dismissed them from his thoughts, and to have been little şolicitous about rendering them more perfect. his carelessness in this respect the Preface to the second volume of his MISCELLANIES, published in 1685, furnishes a remarkable instance: "There is one mistake of mine," says he, [in the translation of part of the fourth book of Lucretius,]" which I will not lay to the printer's charge, who has enough to answer for, in false pointings: it is in the word viper. I would have the verse run thus :
The scorpion, love, must on the wound be bruis'd.”
A few years afterwards (1692) this volume was reprinted, and in the new edition we find the very same observation in the Preface, and the same errour in the text. This instance, indeed, relates only to the typographical accuracy of his works; but in the Preface to the second edition of THE INDIAN EMPEROR, he is very explicit on this subject; for having mentioned that he had corrected such errours of the press as he had observed in the former edition, he adds, "As for the more material faults of writing, which are properly mine, though I see many of them, I want leisure to amend them. It is enough for those who make one poem the business of their lives, to leave that 12