Slike strani

has been said, and repeated from book to book, that it is not to be wondered at that our author's

but though he received the moneys, we received not the playes, not one in a yeare. After which, the House being burnt, the Company in building another contracted great debts, so that the Shares fell much short of what they were formerly. Thereupon Mr. Dryden complaining to the Company of his want of proffit, the Company was so kind to him, that they not only did not presse him for the playes which he so engaged to write for them, and for which he was paid beforehand, but they did also, at his earnest request, give him a third day for his last new play, called ALL FOR LOVE; and at the receipt of the money of the said third day, he acknowledged it as a guift, and a particular kindnesse of the Company. Yet notwithstanding this kind proceeding, Mr. Dryden has now, jointly with Mr. Lee, (who was in pension with us to the last day of our playing, and shall continue,) written à play called OEDIPUS, and given it to the Duke's Company, contrary to his said agreement, his promise, and all gratitude, to the great prejudice and almost undoing of the Company, they being the only poets remaining to us. Mr. Crowne, being under the like agreement with the Duke's House, writt a play called THE DESTRUCTION

grew was to have two full shares and three quarters. And by agreement between Henry and Thomas, Henry was to have £.4 per week out of the two shares of Thomas, except such weeks when the players did not act."

From the emoluments which Dryden is here said to have received by his share and a quarter, the total profits of the King's Theatre, antecedent to its being burnt down, should seem to have been about £.4,000 per annum. So that Wright, who asserts in his HISTORIA HISTRIONICA, 8vo. 1699, p. 11, that every whole sharer in Killigrew's company, for many years re ceived a thousand pounds a year, was undoubtedly mistaken,

dramatick pieces should frequently have been incorrect, when he was under the necessity of writing for bread, and producing three or four plays a year. "It is certain," says Dr. Johnson, following Jacob, that in one year (1678) he published ALL FOR LOVE, ASSIGNATION, two parts of The Conquest OF GRANADA, SIR MARTIN MARALL, and THE STATE OF INNOCENCE, six complete plays; with a celerity of execution, which, though all Langbaine's charges of plagiarism should be allowed, shews such facility of composition, such readiness of language, and such copiousness of sentiment, as, since the time of Lopez de Vega, perhaps no other author has possessed."-But this statement is

OF JERUSALEM, and being forced by their refusall of it to bring it to us, the said Company compelled us after the studying of it, and a vast expence in scenes and cloathes, to buy off their clayme, by paying all the pension he had received from them; amounting to one hundred and twelve pounds paid by the King's Company, besides neere forty pounds he the said Mr. Crowne paid out of his owne pocket.

"These things considered, if, notwithstanding Mr. Dryden's said agreement, promise, and moneys freely given him for his said last new play, and the many titles we have to his writings, this play be judged away from us, we must submit.






"Mic. MOHUN."

wholly unfounded; for not one of these plays was produced or originally printed in 1678, except ALL FOR LOVE; and the truth is, that whatever may have been Dryden's facility of composition, (which unquestionably was extraordinary,) he does not appear to have produced more plays within a limited time than many other dramatick writers; nor, whatever allowances may be made for the imperfection of his plays, has he any right to our indulgence on the plea of having frequently (if ever) produced three plays in a year. The contract was probably entered into in the latter end of the year 1667. In the month of January, 1671-2, the theatre which had been built in Drury-Lane but a few years before, was burnt down, and the King's Company were compelled to remove to the playhouse in Lincoln's Inn Fields,' which had not long before been deserted by their antagonists, the

It has been doubted where the King's Servants played' during the time their theatre in Drury-Lane was rebuilding; but it is ascertained by a manuscript copy of our author's Prologue, which is printed in his Miscellanies with only the title of " Prologue spoken the first day of the King's House acting after the fire." The manuscript ascertains not only the theatre to which they removed, but the play before which this prologue was spoken. See MSS. Birch. 4455, art. 6. (in the British Museum,)“ A Prologue of a Play entitled WIT WITHOUT MONEY, spoken at the Duke's Old Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, (after the King's was burnt,) by the King's players, Feb. 26, 1671." [1671-2]. In the third couplet Dryden

Duke of York's Servants, who had gone to their new house in Dorset Gardens. The King's Servants continued to play in Lincoln's Inn Fields till a new theatre was constructed for them by Sir Christopher Wren, on the old site in DruryLane; which was opened on the 26th of March, 1674, with a prologue and epilogue by our author," and continued standing till a few years ago. Between 1667 and March 1674, that is, in about seven years, Dryden produced but ten plays, or about three plays in every two years. If we extend the account to a later period, December, 1682,

alludes to their antagonists having recently quitted the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields:

"From that hard climate we must wait for bread, "Whence even the natives, forced by hunger, fled." From the following lines, it should seem that some of the Nobility, on this emergency, had furnished the Company with cloaths, &c.

The Epilogue spoken on this occasion exhibits a curious picture of a part of London at that time, through which it was necessary to pass in going to Dorset Gardens: "Our house relieves the ladies from the frights "Of ill-paved streets and long dark winter nights; "The Flanders horses from a cold bleak road, "Where bears in furs dare scarcely look abroad: "The audience from worn plays, and fustian stuff "Of rhyme, more nauseous than three boys in buff.” The now populous Strand and Fleet-street formed the cold bleak road here described. The three boys in buff appeared probably in THE THREE BOLD BEAUCHAMPS, an old play which used to be acted at the Red-Bull Theatre.


when for a certain time he discontinued writing for the stage, we shall find, that in sixteen years eighteen dramas only were produced, (allowing THE STATE OF INNOCENCE, though never acted, to be one,) which is little more than a play in each year. The era of his greatest exertion seems to have been from 1667 to 1670; in which period probably he wrote five or six plays.-From this statement then, it is clear, that though our author was indisputably distinguished for facility of composition, other dramatick poets have equalled, if not surpassed, him in this particular. There is good ground for believing that Shakspeare for several years composed two plays in each year; and Fletcher, in the last ten years of his life, appears to have furnished the scene with more than thirty dramas, in some of which, however, he was assisted by Massinger, Rowley, and other playwrights.

On the death of Sir William D'Avenant, April 7,1668, the bays which he had worn from 1638, devolved, though not immediately, (as has commonly been supposed,) on our author. When the office of Royal POET LAUREATE, which Dryden enjoyed for near twenty years, was first instituted, it is not now easy to ascertain. Degrees in grammar, which included rhetorick and versification, having, as my late learned and ingenious friend, Mr. Warton, has remarked,' been anciently conferred in our Universities, that circumstance has been the occa

* HIST. OF ENG. POETRY, vol. ii. p. 129.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »