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been embodied. In the same prologue one of the Astrologers observes of the piece,
"It should have been but one continued song, "Or at the least a dance of three hours long:" referring probably to Sir William D'Avenant's SIEGE OF RHODES, an opera, with which the Duke of York's Servants, under his management, opened their new theatre in spring 1662,' and which doubtless continued to be frequently acted in the course of the following winter. At this time our
author was patronised by the celebrated Barbara
It was acted twelve days successively with great applause. Downes's Rosc. ANGL. p. 21.
The following couplet in the same Prologue,
"He would have wish'd it better for
your sakes, "But that in plays he finds you love mistakes—” certainly alludes to the numerous mistakes of Teague in Sir Robert Howard's comedy called THE COMMITTEE, which was then extremely popular. After Teague has knock'd down the bookseller, and taken the Covenant, according to his notion of taking it, Colonel Careless says "This fellow, I prophecy, will bring me into many troubles by his mistakes." So again, in Act iii. sc. 1. TEAGUE."Well, that is all one, is it not? If he would take any counsel, or you would take any counsel, is not that all one then?"--COL. CARE." Was there ever such a mistake?"-Again, ibid. LIEUT. "Come, Teague, I'll walk along with thee, and shew thee the house, that thou may not mistake that, however.”
It appears from the original prologue to THE WILD GALLANT, that it was first acted on the 5th of February.
Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine, afterwards Duchess of Cleaveland, to whom he addressed a copy of verses on her encouraging his first play, which he acknowledges was very ill received, and would have been driven from the scene, if this admired beauty had not by her favour and applause given new life to his condemn'd and dying muse.'
It was, however, he tells us, well received at court, and was more than once the divertisement of his Majesty by his own command.
If we consider our author as a dramatick writer, his life may be commodiously divided into four periods. 1. from his outset as a playwright to the temporary suspension of dramatick exhibitions in 1665.—2. from their revival to the time when the
9 In a SESSION of the Poets, written about the year 1670, this poem is treated with as little respect as the play to which it relates :
"Sir Robert Howard, call'd for over and over,
"At length sent in Teague with a packet of news, "Wherein the sad knight, to his grief, did discover
How Dryden had lately robb'd him of his Muse.
Each man in the court was pleas'd with the theft,
"The thief might be punished for his WILD GAL
Dryden, who one would have thought had more wit,
"Pleading some pitiful rhymes he had writ
King's Theatre was destroyed by fire in 1671-2.3. from that era to 1682, when he discontinued writing for the stage.-4. from 1690 to 1694, in which period his last five plays were produced.
In settling the dates and succession of his plays, Dr. Johnson was led into many errours by following Langbaine, who in his "Account of the English Dramatick Poets," adopted a very absurd method, that of arranging them alphabetically; and frequently annexed to the several pieces the date of a late, instead of the earliest, edition. Dr. Johnson does not seem to have known that Dryden himself had published a list of his plays arranged in the order in which he wrote them.' With the aid of this list, and the assistance furnished by the entries in the Stationers' Registers, it will not be difficult to allot almost all his dramas to the years in which they were first performed.
It was a bold attempt, he observes, " to begin with a comedy, which is the most difficult part of dramatick poetry."-Finding himself unsuccessful
' Prefixed to KING ARTHUR, 4to. 1691, is the following Advertisement:
Finding that several of my friends in buying my plays, &c. bound together, have been imposed on by the booksellers foisting in a play which is not mine, [THE MISTAKEN HUSBAND,] I have here, to prevent this for the future, set down a catalogue of my plays and poems in quarto, putting the plays in the order I wrote them. JOHN DRYDEN." The list subjoined will be found in a more perfect state, in a following page.
in that attempt, his next performance was a tragicomedy, THE RIVAL LADIES, which probably was exhibited in the winter of 1663, being entered on the Stationers' Books, June 5, 1664; and it not being customary at that time to commit plays to the press till they had run their course on the stage.
Our author's connexion with Sir Robert Howard led him to assist that gentleman in writing THE INDIAN QUEEN, of which how much was written by Dryden cannot be now ascertained; but the versification of this piece is so much superiour to that of Sir Robert's other plays, that he probably in this instance derived no inconsiderable aid from his coadjutor. The books which it was necessary to consult on that occasion naturally suggested to Dryden the subject of his next tragedy, THE INDIAN EMPEROR, which, though the play was not printed before October 1667, probably had been acted early in the winter of 1664-5; for the INDIAN QUEEN must have been performed in the middle of the year 1664 or before; and two lines of the Prologue to THE INDIAN EMPEROR shew that one year only intervened between the first exhibition of these plays :
"The scenes are old, the habits are the same
A couplet in the Epilogue also
"As for the coffee-wits, he says not much,
"Their proper business is, to damn the Dutch"---
2 He means, before the Spaniards arrived in South America.
furnishes us with a further confirmation of that date; for in December 1664, letters of reprisal against the Dutch were issued out, and soon afterwards above an hundred Dutch prizes were taken by the English fleet; and war was proclaimed against that nation on the 2d of March following. Accordingly, I find this tragedy entered for publication at Stationers' Hall, May 26, 1665, though, owing to the subsequent national calamities, it was not then printed.
In consequence of the plague breaking out soon afterwards, and of the fatal conflagration which laid a great part of London in ruins in the following year, no dramatick entertainments were allowed to be exhibited from May 1665, to Christmas 1666. During these eighteen months, Dryden, who in this interval, I believe, married Lady Elizabeth Howard, appears to have resided principally in the country, probably at Charlton in Wiltshire, the seat of his father-in-law, the Earl of Berkshire. Here he amused himself with writing his elegant ESSAY OF DRAMATICK POESY, which he afterwards dedicated to Charles, Lord Buckhurst, and published in the latter end of the year 1667.+
Though the Art of Criticism at this period had
3 Rosc. ANG. 8vo. 1708. p. 26.
4 It was entered in the Stationers' Books by H. Herringman, Aug. 7, 1667, and published in quarto, probably between that time and Christmas, though the titlepage, according to the custom of booksellers, is dated 1668.