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1693, his theatrick labours were concluded by the production of His last drama, LovE TRIUMPHANT,
CLEOMENES would appear. Since that time, the inno cence and merit of the play have raised it several eminent advocates, who have prevailed to have it acted; and you need not doubt but it has been with great applause.'
The noblemen who befriended our author on this occasion, by representing CLEOMENES as "wholly innocent of those crimes which were laid unjustly to its charge," were Antony, Viscount Falkland, and Laurence, Earl of Rochester. What were the grounds of offence, does not appear. But the Queen, from whom the prohibition came, (the King being at that time in Holland,) was probably extremely fearful of any piece being introduced on the stage, that might admit of a political application to her own time, in consequence of the distress she had suffered a few years before at the representation of THE SPANISH FRIAR, which she ordered to be performed in June, 1689, it being the first play she went to see. Of her confusion and distress on that occasion a particular account is given in the following curious letter, written by Daniel Finch, second Earl of Nottingham, which seems to have been formerly in the possession of Oldys, and has been printed by Sir John Dalrymple, from a copy furnished by Dr. Percy, Lord Bishop of Dromore. It does not appear to whom the letter was addressed:
"I am loth to send blank paper by a carrier, but am rather willing to send some of the tattle of the town, than nothing at all; which will at least serve for an hour's chat, and then convert the scrawl to its proper use.
"The only day her Majesty gave herself the diversion of a play, and that on which she designed to see another, has furnished the town with discourse for near a month.
a tragicomedy; which was announced some time before as a drama of the same kind with THE
The choice of the play was THE SPANISH FRIAR, the only play forbid by the late K[ing]. Some unhappy expressions, among which those that follow, put her in some disorder, and forced her to hold up her fan, and often look behind her, and call for her palatine and hood, and any thing she could next think of; while those who were in the pit before her turned their heads over their shoulders, and all in general directed their looks towards her, whenever their fancy led them to make any application of what was said. In one place, where the Queen of Arragon is going to church in procession, 'tis said by a spectator, Very good; she usurps the throne, keeps the old King in prison, and at the same time is praying for a blessing on her army;'--And when said, That 'tis observed at Court, who weeps, and who wears black for good King Sancho's death,' 'tis said, Who is that, that can flatter a Court like this? Can I sooth tyranny ? seem pleas'd to see my Royal Master murthered; his crown usurped; a distaff in the throne ?'-And What title has this Queen, but lawless force; and force must pull her down.'-Twenty more things are said, which may be wrested to what they were never designed: but however, the observations then made furnished the town with talk, till something else happened, which gave it much occasion for discourse; for another play being ordered to be acted, the Queen came not, being taken up with other diversion. She dined with Mrs. Gradens, the famous woman in the Hall, that sells fine laces and head-dresses; from thence she went to the Jew's, that sells Indian things; to Mrs. Ferguson's, De Vett's, Mrs. Harrison's, and other Indian houses; but not to Mrs. Potter's, though in her way; which caused Mrs, Potter to say, that she might
SPANISH FRIAR; but did not meet with the suc cess of that piece, for according to the testimony
as well have hoped for that honour as others, considering that the whole design of bringing the Queen and King was managed at her house, and the consultations held there; so that she might as well have thrown away a little money in raffling there, as well as at the other houses but it seems that my Lord Devonshire has got Mrs. Potter to be laundress: she has not much counte. nance of the Queen, her daughter still keeping the Indian house her mother had. The same day the Queen went to one Mrs. Wise's, a famous woman for telling fortunes, but could not prevail with her to tell any thing; though to others she has been very true, and has foretold that King James shall come in again, and the Duke of Norfolk shall lose his head: the last, I suppose, will naturally be the consequence of the first. These things, however innocent, have passed the censure of the town: and, be. sides a private reprimand given, the King gave one in publick; saying to the Queen, that he heard she dined at a bawdy-house, and desired the next time she went, he might go. She said, she had done nothing but what the late Queen had done. He asked her, if she meant to make her, her example. More was said on this occasion than ever was known before; but it was borne with all the submission of a good wife, who leaves all to the direction of the K-, and diverts herself with walking six or seven miles a day, and looking after her buildings, making of fringes, and such like innocent things; and does not meddle in governinent, though she has better title to do it than the late Queen had."
Though the latter part of this letter does not immediately relate to the subject before us, it contains so curious a picture of the manners of the time, that I have
of a contemporary, "it was damned by the uni
been tempted to transcribe it.-To understand that passage, where it is said, that those who were in the pit before the Queen, turned their heads over their shoulders, to observe her countenance, it should be kept in mind, that in the last age, and during the earlier part of the present century, the Royal Family, when they honoured the theatre with their presence, sat in the centre front-box; which long retained the name of the King's box. In foreign countries that has always been the place appropriated to the Sovereign; and in such a situation certainly the royal visitants are best seen by the audience, and may them. selves most commodiously see the representations of the stage.
2 GENT. JOURN. for 1693, p. 374.
3 In a Letter from a Gentleman in London to a friend in the country, March 22, 1693-4, (which is printed at length in THE PLAYS AND POEMS of SHAKSPEARE, 8vo. 1790, vol. i. part ii. p. 141,) the writer, who appears to have had so little perception of our author's excellence,* that he can afford him no other epithets than "huffing Dryden," and "the conceited poet," thus contemptuously speaks of this piece :
"The 2d play [produced in the season of 1693] is Mr. Dryden's, called LOVE TRIUMPHANT, OR NATURE WILL PREVAIL. It is a tragi-comedy, but in my opinion, one of the worst he ever writt, if not the very worst: the comical part descends beneath the style and shew of a Bartholomew-fair Droll. It was damned by the universal cry of the town, nemine contradicente, but the conceited poet. He says in his Preface, that this is the last the town must expect from him: he had done himself a kindness, had he taken his leave before."
In a former page it has been mentioned, that Dryden himself prefixed to KING ARTHUR a list of his plays, arranged in the order in which he wrote them. (See p. 56, n. 1.) To that list, which I have reserved for this place, I have annexed the dates of the entries of the greater part of them, extracted from the Stationers' Register; the time when they were published; and the theatre at which they were acted.