Slike strani
PDF
ePub

8

lived with him on very amicable terms. From traditional accounts, which have been well authenticated, it appears, that his kinsman was a man of amiable manners, extremely benevolent, and highly deserving of the praises lavished upon him in this Epistle; in which the description of an honest English Member of Parliament was intended, as Dryden himself informs us, not only as a portrait of his worthy relation, but as a memorial to posterity of the author's principles. His kinsman's sister, Honour Driden," who lived with him, and whom we have seen our author had wooed in his younger days, gave an additional attraction to the house of Chesterton, which he often visited in his latter years.

In the common accounts of the family of Dryden, it has been related, that this gentleman and four of his brothers entered into a vow never to marry; but Lady Dryden, the widow of the last Sir John Dryden, used to say, (probably from the information of her husband, who died in March, 1770,

8 See his Letter to the Right Hon. Charles Montague. This lady, who according to the tradition of her own family, was extremely sensible and engaging, continued single all her life, in consequence of an early disappointment. After her brother's death, she removed to Shrewsbury, where she lived for some years with her elder sister, Anne, the widow of Walter Pigott, Esq. of Chetwynd, in Shropshire. They were both remarkable for charity and piety, and fasting in Lent with great strictness. Honour Driden died some years after her brother, and was buried in St. Chad's church in Shrewsbury.

at the age of sixty-seven,) that this circumstance had been erroneously ascribed to these gentlemen, by Collins, in his Baronetage, or whoever furnished him with that anecdote; and that in truth it belonged to another family in Northamptonshire.-Mr. John Driden survived our author above seven years, and by his last will, among numerous legacies to various relations, bequeathed five hundred pounds to our poet's son, Charles; but he having died before the testator, it became a lapsed legacy' and it has been a constant tradition in the family of Pigott, descended from one of the sisters of this gentleman, that in return for the immortality conferred on him by his kinsman's verses, he

The will of Mr. John Driden of Chesterton, which is not in the Prerogative-office, was "sealed, delivered, and published the 2d of January, 1707," three days only before the death of the testator. At that time Charles Dryden was dead; but this will, by which a very large real and personal property was disposed of, was doubtless drawn up some years before: for it begins thus :-"The last Will and Testament of John Driden of Chesterton, in the county of Huntingdon, Esq., made in the

day of ;" blanks being left for the date, which were never filled up: and it contains other proofs that the testator did not, when it was written, account himself near death. Of this will his sister Honour, his brother Erasmus, and his nephew Robert Pigott, were made

executors.

Beside legacies to various persons, amounting to about sixteen thousand pounds, he bequeathed the George Inn at Northampton to trustees, to found a school' for the children of the poor of that town; a circumstance re

presented him with the sum of £.500. A fine portrait of our author, painted by Kneller, which

2

corded in the following inscription on a white marble tablet, set up in the front of that Inn, by his nephew and heir, Robert Pigott :

JOHANNES DRIDEN, ar.
Ashbeiæ Canonicorum

In hoc agro natus,

Vir gravis, probus, sagax, colendus,
PANDOCHÆUM hoc quod spectas magnificum,
in natalis patriæ ornamentum et decus
Ingenti sumptu statim ab incendio struxit;
et moriens anno 1707° ad
ΠΤΩΧΟΔΙΔΑΣΚΑΛΕΙΟΝ fundandum
optabili exemplo piè legavit.
Dedisce jam, lector, culpare tempora;
At Northamptoniæ felici gratulare, ubi cernis
Tantum virtutis, morum, religionis,

ex ipsa vel caupona procreari.
Lapidem hunc beneficii indicem

Robertus Pigott, R. P.

The family of Pigott in Shropshire, ever since their connexion with our author's kinsman, have had a child christened by the name of Dryden; but not one of them has arrived to maturity.

year Waller, Esq.

2 The poet in this portrait, which is a half-length, wears a large wig, and holds a sprig of laurel in his hand. It remained in the house of Chesterton till about the 1777, when the estate was sold to by the late Robert Pigott, Esq. grandson of Robert Pigott above mentioned; about which time this portrait was removed from the old mansion where it had so long hung, and the owner of it, Mrs. Frances Pigott, of Bath, (for it was bequeathed to her by her father,) has not been able since to discover into whose hands it has fallen.

till about twenty years ago decorated the house of Chesterton, was perhaps an interchange of civility on his part, on that occasion.-That some valuable donation was made to Dryden in return for these animated verses, I have no doubt; but in traditional anecdotes of this kind, transmitted by oral communication, minute accuracy is seldom found. It seems much more probable, that the gift was one hundred pounds; for the receipt of so large a sum as five hundred pounds, in 1699, or early in the following year, to which period this transaction must be referred, seems inconsistent with those distressed circumstances in which we know the poet died soon afterwards; more especially if a similar story concerning the bounty of the Duchess of Ormond be authentick.

The volume of FABLES being nearly printed in December, 1699, waited only for that lively and pleasing Preface which he prefixed to it; and the work, thus completed, was published early in March, 1699-1700,' with a Dedication in prose to the Duke of Ormond, and another in verse to Mary, the second Duchess of Ormond, for

2 In a letter to Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas, written December 29, 1699, he says, that the FABLES will be published within a month. The earliest advertisement of their publication, however, which I have found, is in THE FLYING POST, or THE POST-MASTER, No. 753, Thursday March 7, 1699-1700, when the book (in folio) probably first appeared; and it was sold, as we learn from the letter above mentioned, for twelve shillings.

[blocks in formation]
[graphic]

which she is said to have rewarded the writer with a present of five hundred pounds: but in this case, as in the former, I am inclined to read one instead of five, for the reason already assigned. To gratify the curious reader, the pieces of Chaucer which had been modernized were subjoined to the volume, in their primitive form: but a perfect edition of this most popular and perhaps the happiest, of all our author's poetical performances, except his Musick-Ode, remains ye to be given; in which the most splendid passage of the original should be compared with the copy and the judicious retrenchments, as well as the beautiful amplifications, made by Dryden in var ous places, should be distinctly pointed out.

It has, without reason, been mentioned as a subject of admiration, that in the middle of the reign of Charles the Second only fifteen hundred copies of PARADISE LOST should have been sold in seven years. The slow progress of this last great performance of Dryden is much more extraordi nary; for a second edition of the FABLES, of which probably not more than one thousand copies wer printed, was not called for till thirteen years after the death of the author; when Anne, Lady Sylvius, (a daughter of one of Lady Elizabeth Dryden's brothers,) taking out letters of administration to him, received from Tonson the sum which then became due, agreeably to the original contract. So dif ferent is the present state of literature from what it was in the beginning of this century, that there can be little doubt, if such a work were now for

« PrejšnjaNaprej »