« PrejšnjaNaprej »
correct: yet, excepting Virgil, I never met with any that was so in any language,"
To his general negligence in this respect there are, however, several exceptions. The second edition of his TYRANNICK LOVE is said in the titlepage. to have been reviewed by the author. When, in 1684, he had occasion to reprint his ESSAY OF DRAMATICK POESY, he revised it with the greatest care, and made various alterations in the language of it in almost every page, though he did not, I think, add a single sentence. From one of his letters, we learn, that he tire days to the revision of his translation of Virgil; and he made some slight improvements in MACFLECKNOE, which will be mentioned hereafter. But the most memorable change he ever made, is that found in the second edition of his ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL; in which, beside some verbal alterations, he introduced twelve new lines in the character of Shaftesbury, and four relative to Monmouth towards the end of the King's speech. In Shaftesbury's portrait, immediately after the words Usurp'd a patriot's all-atoning name," these verses were added :
"So easy still it proves, in factious times,
9 At the end of this Essay, (vol. i. part ii. p. 135—142.) the principal alterations made in the second edition are noticed.
"Where crowds can wink, and no offence be known, "Since in another's guilt they find their own! "Yet fame deserved no enemy can grudge; "The Statesman we abhor, but praise the Judge: "In Israel's courts ne'er sat an Abethdin, "With more discerning eyes, or hands more clean; "Unbribed, unsought, the wretched to redress, "Swift of dispatch, and easy of access."
One of his adversaries' asserts, that for this addition, Dryden was paid by Shaftesbury; and a later writer has constructed upon this circumstance a curious tale, which has been given to the publick with much circumstantial precision in the new edition of the BIOGRAPHIA BRITANNICA, from the papers of either Thomas Stringer, Esq. who was Clerk of the Presentations under Shaftesbury, when Chancellor, or Benjamin Martyn, the author of TIMOLEON, a tragedy acted in 1730; but to which of these gentlemen we are indebted for the anecdote I am about to mention, does not very clearly appear. Mr. Stringer, it seems, wrote a Life of Shaftesbury, which was found among his papers at his death in 1702; and about the year 1732 his manuscript, with other papers relating to our ACHITOPHEL, was put by one of the Shaftesbury family into the hands of Mr. Martyn, with a view that he should compose a new Life of that noble"Mr. Martyn," says Dr. Kippis, "made Mr. Stringer's manuscript the basis of his own work, which he enriched with such speeches of the Earl
The author of THE WHIP AND KEY.
as are now remaining, and with several other par ticulars drawn from some loose papers left by his Lordship. He availed himself likewise of other means of information, which more recent publications had afforded; and prefixed to the whole an introduction of considerable length, wherein he passed very high encomiums on our great Statesman, and strengthened them by the testimonies of Mr. Locke and Mons. Le Clerc. He added also strictures on L'Estrange, Sir William Temple, Bishop Burnet, and others, who had written to his Lordship's disadvantage. One anecdote which we well remember, it cannot but be agreeable to the publick, and to the noble family, to see related. It is well known with what severity the Earl of Shaftesbury is treated by Dryden in his ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL. Nevertheless, soon after that fine satire appeared, his Lordship, having the nomination of a scholar, as Governor of the CharterHouse, gave it to one of the poet's sons, without any solicitation on the part of the father, or of any other person. This act of generosity had such an effect upon Dryden, that, to testify his gratitude, he added, in the second edition of this poem, the four following lines, in celebration of the Earl's conduct as Lord Chancellor :
"In Israel's court ne'er sat an Abethdin,
"With more discerning eyes, or hands more clean; **Unbribed, unsought, the wretched to redress, "Swift of dispatch, and easy of access."
"When King Charles the Second read these lines,
he told Dryden, that he had spoiled by them all which he had said before of Shaftesbury."
It appears from what I have already stated, that the original relater of this tale was not half informed; for the lines inserted were not four, but twelve. Let us now examine its weight and consistency. It is not necessary for me to dwell on the monstrous improbability of a nobleman of at least a very ardent spirit, a few days after a most severe satire had appeared against him, selecting the author of it from the whole mass of mankind, as the person above all others entitled to his particular notice and liberality; which, viewed in this light, may be considered as a kind of premium for the lashes that the poet had inflicted: nor shall I waste the reader's time, or my own, by resorting to general reasoning, or balancing probabilities, because I am furnished with better evidence of the falsehood of this story than any such disquisition can supply. Our author's two elder sons, we know, were bred at Westminster School. The son therefore, here alluded to, must have been his third son, Erasmus-Henry and to quadrate with this anecdote, he must have been admitted into
2 BIOG. BRIT. iv. 264.* 2d. edit. After the execution of Algernon Sydney, Shaftesbury's "Memoirs of his own time" were burnt by Locke, to whom they had been entrusted. A curious character of Mr. Hastings, a Dorsetshire gentleman, extracted from them, was, however, published in Howard's Collection of Letters, vol. i. p. 152. -The" other person," mentioned by Dr. Kippis, as the last to whom the manuscripts of Mr. Stringer, &c. were consigned, was Dr. Kippis himself, and he received £.500. for his revision of them.
the Charter-House between the 17th of November, 1681, on or about which time this memorable poem first appeared, and the end of the following month, when a second edition, revised and augmented, was issued out. But I have made an inquiry concerning this fact at the Charter-House, where a register of all the scholars that have been admitted on the foundation since 1680, is preserved; and the result has confirmed and increased my distrust of traditional anecdotes, many of which, on a close examination, I have found, if not wholly false, yet greatly distorted by the ignorance, or inattention, or wilful misrepresentation, of those by whom they have been transmitted from age to age. We do not indeed always find pure and absolute falsehood; but many a plausible and well-attested story, when thoroughly sifted, has too often proved what Dryden has denominated a sophisticated truth with an allay of lie in it. In the present instance, however, we find no allay; the whole is pure and unsophisticated, though perfectly free from any commixture of truth; for, from the Register of the Charter-House it appears, that our great poet's son, Erasmus-Henry, instead of being placed on that foundation in the interval between the middle of November and the end of December, 1681, that is, between the first and second edition of ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL, without which the anecdote must fall to the ground, was not admitted till thirteen months afterwards, Feb. 5, 1682-3; and then he was admitted a scholar there, not on the recommendation of Shaftesbury, who was at