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NYPL RESEARCH LIBRARIES



3 3433 08254065 3



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rT



portrait E&ition



English Men of Letters



EDITED BY

JOHN MORLEY



OAT



III.



DRYDEN. BY G. SAINTSBURY

POPE. BY LESLIE STEPHEN

SIDNEY. BY JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS




NEW YORK

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

1894



B >



ro




ENGLISH MEN OF LETTERS.

EDITED BY JOHN MORLEY.



portrait



I.


IV.


VII.


X.


MlI.TON.


BKNTLEY.


SCOTT.


Coi.KKIUGK.


GIBBON.


COMTEK.


DICKENS.


WORDSWORTH.


SllEI,LEY.


LAN DOR.


SPENSER.


BURNS.


II.


V.


VIII.


XI.


SODTIIKY.


BtTRKE.


STERNE.


LOCKE.


BYRON.


MA<:,VUI,A v


SWIFT.


GOLDSMITH.


DEFOE.


FlKI.lHNG.


HUME.


GRAY.


III.


VI.


IX.


XII.


DKYDKN.


BUNYAN.


ClJAUCEP..


THACKKKAY.


POPE


JOHNSON.


LAMB.


ADIMSON.


SIDNEY.


BAOON.


DE QDINCF.Y.


SHERIDAN.



XIII.
KEATS. HAWTHORNE. CARLYLK.






Copyright, 1894, by HARPER .S: BROTHERS.



D R Y D E N



BY

G. SAINTSBUBY






PEEFATORY NOTE.



A WRITER on Dryden is more especially bound to acknowl-
edge his indebtedness to his predecessors, because, so far
as matters of fact are concerned, that indebtedness must
necessarily be greater than in most other cases. There is
now little chance ui fresh information being obtained about
the poet, unless it be in a few letters hitherto undiscovered
or withheld from publication. I have, therefore, to ac-
knowledge my debt to Johnson, Malone, Scott, Mitford,
Bell, Christie, the Rev. R. Hooper, and the writer of an ar-
ticle in the Quarterly Review for 1878. Murray's "Guide
to Northamptonshire " has been of much use to me in the
visits I have made to Dryden's birthplace, and the numer-
ous other places associated with his memory in his native
county. To Mr. J. Churton Collins I owe thanks for

*

pointing out to me a Dryden house which, so far as he
and I know, has escaped the notice of previous biogra-
phers. Mr. W. Noel Sainsbury, of the Record Office, has
supplied me with some valuable information. My friend
Mr. Edmund W. Gosse has not only read the proof-sheets
of this book with the greatest care, suggesting many things
of value, but has also kindly allowed me the use of origi-
nal editions of many late seventeenth -century works, in-
cluding most of the rare pamphlets against the poet in
reply to his satires.



vi PREFATORY NOTE.

Except Scott's excellent but costly and bulky edition,
there is, to the disgrace of English booksellers or book-

' O O

buyers, no complete edition of Dryden. The first issue of
this in 1808 was reproduced in 1821 with no material al-
terations, but both arc very expensive, especially the sec-
ond. Atolerablv complete and not unsatisfactory Dryden

*t L * */

may, however, be got together without much outlay by
any one who waits till he can pick up at the bookshops
copies of Malone's edition of the prose works, and of Con-
greve's original edition (duodecimo or folio) of the plays.
l'>\ addino- to these Mr. Christie's admirable Globe edition

* .

of the poems, very little, except the translations, will be
left out, and not too much obtained in duplicate. This,
<>f course, deprives the reader of Scott's life and notes,
which are very valuable. The life, however, has been re-
printed, and is easily accessible.

In the following pages a few passages from a course of
lectures on " Dryden and his Period,'' delivered by me at
the Royal Institution in the spring of 1880, have been
incorporated.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I. PACK

BEFORE THE RESTORATION 1

CHAPTER II.
EARLY LITERARY WORK 23

CHAPTER III.
PERIOD OF DRAMATIC ACTIVITY 38

CHAPTER IV.
SATIRICAL -AND DIDACTIC POEMS 71

CHAPTER V.
LIFE FROM IG80 TO 1688 99

CHAPTER VI.
LATER DRASIAS AND PROSE WORKS 113

CHAPTER VII.
PERIOD OF TRANSLATION 135

CHAPTER VIII.
THE FABLES 1">3

CHAPTER IX.
CONCLUSION 177






YOKK



^OA AND

NATIONS
A






D R Y D E N.

CHAPTER I.

BEFORE THE RESTORATION.

JOHN DRYDEN was born on the 9th of August, 1631, at
the Vicarage of Aldwinkle All Saints, between Thrapston
and Oundle. Like other small Northamptonshire villages,
Aldwinkle is divided into two parishes, All Saints and St.
Peter's, the churches and parsonage -houses being within
bowshot of each other, and some little confusion has arisen
from this. It has, however, been cleared up by the indus-
trious researches of various persons, and there is now no
doubt about the facts. The house in which the poet was
born (and which still exists, though altered to some extent
internally) belonged at the time to his maternal grandfa-
ther, the Rev. Henry Pickering. The Drydens and the
Pickerings were both families of some distinction in the
county, and both of decided Puritan principles ; but they
were not, properly speaking, neighbours. The Drydens
originally came from the neighbourhood of the border, and
a certain John Drvden, about the middle of the sixteenth

j

century, married the daughter and heiress of Sir John
Cope, of Canons Ashby, in the county of Northampton.
1*



2 DKYDEX. [CHAP.

Erasmus, the son of this John Dryden the name is spelt
as usual at the time in half-a-dozen different wavs, and

v '

there is no reason for supposing that the poet invented
the y, though before him it seems to have been usually
Driden was created a baronet, and his third son, also an
Erasmus, was the poet's father. B3fore this Erasmus
married Mary Pickering the families had already been
connected, but they lived on opposite sides of the county,
Canons Ashby being in the hilly district which extends
to the borders of Oxfordshire on the south-west, while
Tichmarsh, the headquarters of the Pickerings, lies on the
extreme east on high ground, overlooking the flats of
Huntingdon. The poet's father is described as " of Tich-
marsh," and seems to have usually resided in that neighbour-

v O

hood. His property, however, which descended to our poet,
lay in the neighbourhood of Canons Ashby at the village
of Blakesley, which is not, as the biographers persistently
repeat after one another, " near Tichmarsh," but some for-
ty miles distant to the straightest flying crow. Indeed,
the connexion of the poet with the seat of his ancestors,
and of his own property, appears to have been very slight.
There is no positive evidence that he was ever at Canons
Ashby at all, and this is a pity. For the house still in
the possession of his collateral descendants in the female
line - - is a very delightful one, looking like a miniature
college quadrangle set down by the side of a country lane,
with a background of park in which the deer wander, and
a fringe of formal garden, full of the trimmest of yew-
trees. All this was there in Dryden's youth, and, more-
over, the place was the scene of some stirring events. Sir
John Driden was a staunch parliamentarian, and his house
lav obnoxious to the rovalist garrisons of Towcester on

J */ O

the one side, and Banbury on the other. On at least one



i.] BEFORE THE RESTORATION. 3

occasion a great fight took place, the parliamentarians bar-
ricading themselves in the church of Canons Ashby, with-
in stone's throw of the house, and defending it and its
tower for several hours before the royalists forced the
place and carried them off prisoners. This was in Dry-
den's thirteenth year, and a boy of thirteen would have
rejoiced not a little in such a state of things.

But, as has been said, the actual associations of the poet
lie elsewhere. They are all collected in the valley of the
Nene, and a well-girt man can survey the whole in a day's
walk. It is remarkable that Dry den's name is connected
with fewer places than is the case with almost any other
English poet, except, perhaps, Cowper. If we leave out of
sight a few visits to his father-in-law's seat at Charlton, in
Wiltshire, and elsewhere, London and twenty miles of the
Nene valley exhaust the list of his residences. This val-
ley is not an inappropriate locale for the poet who in his
faults, as well as his merits, was perhaps the most English
of all English writers. It is not grand, or epic, or tragical ;
but, on the other hand, it is sufficiently varied, free from
the monotony of the adjacent fens, and full of historical
and architectural memories. The river in which Dryden
acquired, beyond doubt, that love of fishing which is his
only trait in the sporting way known to us, is always pres-
ent in long, slow reaches, thick with water plants. The
remnants of the great woods which once made Northamp-
tonshire the rival of Nottingham and Hampshire are close
at hand, and luckily the ironstone workings which have
recently added to the wealth, and detracted from the
beauty of the central district of the county, have not yet
invaded Dryden's region. Tichmarsh and Aldwinkle, the
places of his birth and education, lie on opposite sides of
the river, about two miles from Thrapston. Aldwinkle is



4 DRYDEX. [CHAP.

sheltered and low, and looks across to the rising ground
on the summit of which Tichmarsh church rises, flanked
hard by with a huge cedar- tree on the rectory lawn, a
cedar-tree certainly coeval with Dryden, since it was plant-
ed two years before his birth. A little beyond Aldwinkle,
following the course of the river, is the small church of
Pilton, where Erasmus Drvden and Marv Pickering were

V rf O

married on October 21, 1630. All these villages are em-
bowered in trees of all kinds, elms and walnuts especially,
and the river banks slope in places with a pleasant abrupt-
ness, giving good views of the magnificent woods of Lil-
ford, which, however, are new-comers, comparatively speak-
ing. Another mile or two beyond Pilton brings the walk-
er to Oundle, which has some traditional claim to the credit
of teaching Dryden his earliest humanities; and the same
distance beyond Oundle is Cotterstock, where a house, still
standing, but altered, was the poet's favourite sojourn in
his later years. Long stretches of meadows lead thence
across the river into Huntingdonshire, and there, just short
of the great north road, lies the village of Chesterton, the
residence, in the late days of the seventeenth century, of
Dryden's favourite cousins, and frequently his own. All
these places are intimately connected with his memorv,

/ / "

and the last named is not more than twenty miles from
the first. Between Cotterstock and Chesterton, where lay
the two houses of his kinsfolk which we know him to
have most frequented, lies, as it lay then, the grim and
shapeless mound studded with ancient thorn -trees, and
looking down upon the silent Xene, which is all that re-
mains of the castle of Fotherinffhay. Now, as then, the

O /

great lantern of the church, with its flying buttresses and
tormented tracery, looks out over the valley. There is no
allusion that I know of to Fotheringhay in Dryden's



i.] BEFORE THE RESTORATION.

works, and, indeed, there seems to have been a very natu-
ral feelino- amono; all seventeenth centurv writers on the

O *

court side that the less said about Mary Stuart the better.
Fotheringhay waits until Mr. Swinburne shall complete the
trilogy begun in Chastdard and continued in Bothwell, for
an English dramatic poet to tread worthily in the steps of
Montchrestien, of Vondel, and of Schiller. But Dryden
must have passed it constantly ; when he was at Cotter-
stock he must have had it almost under his eyes, and
we know that he was always brooding over fit historical
subjects in English history for the higher poetry. Nor
is it, I think, an unpardonable conceit to note the domi-
nance in the haunts of this intellectually greatest among
the partisans of the Stuarts, of the scene of the great-
est tragedy, save one, that befell even that house of the
furies.

There is exceedingly little information obtainable about
Dryden's youth. The inscription in Tichmarsh Church,
the work of his cousin Mrs. Creed, an excellent person
whose needle and pencil decorated half the churches and
half the manor-houses in that part of the country, boasts
that he had his earlv education in that village, while Oun-

J O

die, as has been said, has some traditional claims to a simi-
lar distinction. From the date of his birth to his entry
at Westminster School we have no positive information
whatever about him, and even the precise date of the lat-
ter is unknown. He was a king's scholar, and it seems
that the redoubtable Busby took pains with him doubt-
less in the well-known Busbeian manner and liked his
verse translations. From Westminster he went to Cam-
bridge, where he was entered at Trinity on May 18th,

*/ ^

1650, matriculated on July 16th, and on October 2nd was
elected to a Westminster scholarship. He was then nine-



K DRYDEX. [CHAP.

teen, an instance, be it observed, among many, of the com-
plete mistake of supposing that very early entrance into
the universities was the rule before our own days. Of
Dry den's Cambridge sojourn we know little more than of
his sojourn at Westminster. He was in trouble on July
19th, 1G52, when he was discommonsed and gated for a
fortnight for disobedience and contumacy. Shadwell also
savs that while at Cambridge he " scurrilous! y traduced

/ /

a nobleman," and was " rebuked on the head '' therefor.
But Shad well's unsupported assertions about Dry den are
unworthy of the slightest credence. He took his degree
in 1654, and though he gained no fellowship, seems to
have resided for nearly seven years at the university.
There has been a good deal of controversy about the feel-
ings with which Dryden regarded his alma mater. It is
certainly curious that, except a formal acknowledgment of
having received his education from Trinity, there is to be
found in his works no kind of affectionate reference to
Cambridge, while there is to be found an extremely un-
kind reference to her in his very best manner. In one of

/

his numerous prologues to the University of Oxford the
University of Cambridge seems to have given him no oc-
casion of writing a prologue occur the famous lines,

" Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
Than his own mother university ;
Thebes did his green unknowing youth engage,
He chooses Athens in his riper age."

It has been sought to diminish the force of this very left-
handed compliment to Cambridge by quoting a phrase of
DrydeiTs concerning the "gross flattery that universities
will endure." But I am inclined to think that most uni-
versity men will agree with me that this is probably n



i.] BEFORE THE RESTORATION.

unique instance of a member of the one university
out of his way to flatter the other at the expense of his
own. Dry den was one of the most accomplished flatter-
ers that ever lived, and certainly had no need save of de-
liberate choice to resort to the vulgar expedient of insult-
ing one person or body by way of praising another. What
his cause of dissatisfaction was it is impossible to say, but
the trivial occurrence already mentioned certainly will not
account for it.

If, however, daring these years we have little testimo-
ny about Dryden, we have three documents from his own
hand which are of no little interest. Although Dryden
was one of the most late-writing of English poets, he had
got into print before he left Westminster. A promising
pupil of that school, Lord Hastings, had died of small-pox,
and, according to the fashion of the time, a tombeau, as it
would have been called in France, was published, containing
elegies by a very large number of authors, ranging from
Westminster boys to the already famous names of Waller
and Denham. Somewhat later an epistle commendatory
was contributed by Dryden to a volume of religious verse
by his friend John Iloddesdon. Later still, and probably
after he had taken his degree, he wrote a letter to his
cousin, Honor Driden, daughter of the reigning baronet
of Canons Ashby, which the young lady had the grace
to keep. All these juvenile productions have been very
severely judged. As to the poems, the latest writer on
the subject, a writer in the Quarterly Review, whom I cer-
tainly do not name otherwise than honoris causa, pro-
nounces the one execrable, and the other inferior to the
juvenile productions of that miserable poetaster, Kirke
White. It seems to this reviewer that Dryden had at this
time "no ear for verse, no command of poetic diction,



8 DRYDEX. [CHAP.

no sense of poetic taste." As to the letter, even Scott
describes it as " alternately coarse and pedantic." I am
in hopeless discord with these authorities, both of whom
I respect. Certainly neither the elegy on Lord Hastings,
nor the complimentary poem to Hoddesdon, nor the letter
to Honor Driden, is a masterpiece. But all three show,
as it seems to me, a considerable literary faculty, a remark-
able feeling after poetic style, and above all the peculiar
virtue which was to be Dryden's own. They are all sat-
urated with conceits, and the conceit was the reigning
delicacy of the time. Now, if there is one thing more
characteristic and more honourably characteristic of Dry-
den than another, it is that he was emphatically of his
time. No one ever adopted more thoroughly and more
unconsciously the motto as to Spartam nactus es. He tried
every fashion, and where the fashion w T as capable of being
brought sub specie ceternitatis he never failed so to bring it.
Where it was not so capable he never failed to abandon
it and to substitute something better. A man of this tem-
perament (which it may be observed is a mingling of the
critical and the poetical temperaments) is not likely to
find his way early or to find it at all without a good many
preliminary wanderings. But the two poems so severely
condemned, though they are certainly not good poems, are
beyond all doubt possessed of the elements of goodness.
I doubt myself whether any one can fairly judge them
who has not passed through a novitiate of careful study
of the minor poets of his own day. By doing this one
acquires a certain faculty of distinguishing, as Theophile
Gautier once put it in his own case, " the sheep of Hugo
from the goats of Scribe." I do not hesitate to say that
an intelligent reviewer in the year 1650 would have rank-
ed Dryden, though perhaps with some misgivings, among



i.] BEFORE THE RESTORAT&X. 9

the sheep. The faults are simply an exaggeration of the
prevailing style, the merits are different.

As for the epistle to Honor Dridcn, Scott must surdv
have been thinking of the evil counsellors who wished him
to bowdlerise glorious John, when he called it "coarse."
There is nothing in it but the outspoken gallantry of an
age which was not afraid of speaking out, and the prose
style is already of no inconsiderable merit. It should be
observed, however, that a most unsubstantial romance has
been built up on this letter, and that Miss Honor's father,
Sir John Driden, has had all sorts of anathemas launched
at him, in the Locksley Hall style, for damming the course
of true love. There is no evidence whatever to prove this
crime against Sir John. It is in the nature of mankind

\TJ

almost invariably to fall in love with its cousins, and
fortunately according to some physiologists by no means
invariably to marry them. That Dryden seriously aspired
to his cousin's hand there is no proof, and none that her
father refused to sanction the marriage. On the contrary,
his foes accuse him of being a dreadful flirt, and of mak-
ing "the young blushing virgins die" for him in a miscel-
laneous but probably harmless manner. All that is posi-
tively known on the subject is that Honor never married,
that the cousins were on excellent terms some half-century
after this fervent epistle, and that Miss Driden is said to
have treasured the letter and shown it with pride, which is
much more reconcilable with the idea of a harmless flirta-
tion than of a great passion tragically cut short.

At the time of the writing of this epistle Dryden was,
indeed, not exactly an eligible suitor. His father had just
died 1G54 and had left him two-thirds of the Blakesley
estates, with a reversion to the other third at the death of

his mother. The land extended to a couple of hundred
B 2



10 DRYDEX. [CHAP.

acres or thereabouts, and the rent, which with characteris-
tic generosity Dryden never increased, though rents went
up in his time enormously, amounted to 60/. a year. Dry-
den's two-thirds were estimated by Malone at the end of
the last century to be worth about 120/. income of that
day, and this certainly equals at least 200/. to-day. AVith
this to fall back upon, and with the influence of the Dri-
den and Pickering families, any bachelor in those days
might be considered provided with prospects ; but exacting
parents might consider the total inadequate to the support
of a wife and family. Sir John Dridcn is said, though a
fanatical Puritan, to have been a man of no very strong
intellect, and he certainly did not feather his nest in the

tt

way which was open to any defender of the liberties of
the people. Sir Gilbert Pickering, who, in consequence
of the intermarriages before alluded to, was doubly Dry-
den's cousin, was wiser in his generation. He was one of
the few members of the Long Parliament who judiciously
attached themselves to the fortunes of Cromwell, and was
plentifully rewarded with fines, booty, places, and honours,
by the Protector. When Dryden finally left Cambridge
in 1657, he is said to have attached himself to this kins-
man. And at the end of the next year he wrote his re-
markable Heroic Stanzas on Cromwell's death. This
poem must have at once put out of doubt his literary
merits. There was assuredly no English poet then living,
except Milton and Cowley, who could possibly have writ-
ten it, and it was sufficiently different from the style of
either of those masters. Taking the four -line stanza,

o

which Davenant had made popular, the poet starts with
a bold opening, in which the stately march of the verse is
not to be disguised by all the frippery of erudition which
loads it :



i.] BEFORE THE RESTORATION. 11

" And now 'tis time ; for their officious haste,

Who would before have borne him to the sky,
Like eager Romans, ere all rites were past,
Did let too soon the sacred eagle fly."

The whole poem contains but thirty -seven of these
stanzas, but it is full of admirable lines and thoughts. No
doubt there are plenty of conceits as well, and Dryden
would not have been Dryden if there had not been. But
at the same time the singular justness which always marked
his praise, as well as his blame, is as remarkable in the
matter of the poem, as the force and vigour of the diction
and versification are in its manner. To this day no better
eulogy of the Protector has been written, and the poet
with a remarkable dexterity evades, without directly de-
nying, the more awkward points in his hero's career and
character. One thinp- which must strike all careful readers

o

of the poem is the entire absence of any attack on the
royalist party. To attempt, as Shadwell and other libellers
attempted a quarter of a century later, to construe a fa-
mous couplet

" He fought to end our fighting, and essayed
To staunch the blood by breathing of the vein "

into an approval of the execution of Charles I., is to wrest
the sense of the original hopelessly and unpardonably.
Cromwell's conduct is contrasted with that of those who
" the quarrel loved, but did the cause abhor," who " first
sought to inflame the parties, then to poise," <fcc., i. c., with
Essex, Manchester, and their likes ; and it need hardly be
said that this contrast was ended years before there was
any question of the king's death. Indeed, to a careful
reader nowadays the Heroic Stanzas read much more like
an elaborate attempt to hedge between the parties than



12 DRYDEX. [CHAP.

like an attempt to gain favour from the roundheads by
uncompromising advocacy of their cause. The author is
one of those "sticklers of the war" that he himself de-
scribes.

It is possible that a certain half-heartedness may have
been observed in Dryden by those of his cousin's party.
It is possible, too, that Sir Gilbert Pickering, like. Thack-
eray's Mr. Scully, was a good deal more bent on making
use of his young kinsman than on rewarding him in any
permanent manner. At any rate, no kind of preferment
fell to his lot, and the anarchy of the " foolish Ishbosheth ''
soon made any such preferment extremely improbable.
Before long it would appear that Dryden had definitely
given up whatever position he held in Sir Gilbert Pick-
ering's household, and had betaken himself to literature.



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