John Dryden.

The works of John Dryden, now first collected in eighteen volumes (Volume 7) online

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VOL. vir.







ayafiS /xM^oif ri xa»o» exacrt. PluTARCH. IN AgESILAO.



In the latter part of Charles the Secohd's reign, the stage, as well
asev6ry other engine which could affect the popular mind, was eager-
ly employed in the service of the contending factions. Settle and
Shadwell had, in tragedy and comedy, contributed their mite to the
support of the popular cause. In the stormy session of parliament,
in 168O, the famous bill was moved, for the exclusion of the
Duke of York, as a papist, from the succession, and accompanied
by others of a nature equally peremptory and determined. The
most remarkable was a bill to order an association for the safety
of his majesty's person, lor defence of the protestant religion, for
the preservation of the protesUmt liege s\ibjects against invasion
and opposition, and for preventing any papist from succeeding to
the throne of England. To recommend these rigid measures, and
to keep up that zealous hatred and terror of the catholic religion,
which the plot had inspired, SeUle wrote his forgotten tragedy of
*' Pope Joan," in which he revives the old fable of a female pope,
and loads her with all the crimes of which a priest, or a woman,
could possibly be guilty. Sha^vell's comedy of the " Lancashire
Witches" was levelled more immediately at the papists, but in-
terspersed with most gross and scurrilous reflections upon the
English divines of the high church party. Otway, L^p, and Diy-
den were the formidable antagonists, whom the court opposed to
the whig poets. Thus arrayed and confronted, the stage absolutely
foamed with politics ; the prologues and epilogues, in partfcii-
lar, formed channels, through which the tenets of the opposite
parties were frequently assailed, and the persons of their leaders
and their poets exposed to scandal and derision.

In the middle of these political broils, Dryden was called upon,
as he informs us, by Lee, to return the assistance which that poet
had afforded in composing " CEdipus." The history of the
Duke of Guise had formerly occupied his attention, as an ac-
ceptable subject to the court after the Restoration. A League,
formed under pretence of religion, and in defence of the king's au-
thority, against his person, presented facUities of application to me
late civil wars, to which, we may be sure, our poet was by no


means insensible. But however apt these allusions might have
been in l665, the events which had taken place in 1681-2 ad-
mitted of a closer parallel, and excited a deeper interest. The
unbounded power which Shaftesbury had acquired in the city of
London, and its state of factious fermentation, had been equal-
led by nothing but thp siyay exercised by the leaders of the League
in the metropolis of France. The mtrigues by which the Council:
of Sixteen placed and displaced, flattered or libelled, those popular
officers of Paris, whom the French call echevins, admitted of a di-
rect and immediate comparison with the contest between the
court and the whig?, for the election of the sherifis of Lon-
don ; contests which attained so great violence, thut, at one
time, there was little reason to hope they would have terminated
•without bloodshed. The tuniultuous day of the barricades, when
Henry the second, after having in vain called in the assistance of
liis guards, was obliged to abandon his capital to the Duke of
Guise and his faction, and assemble the states of his kingdom at
Blois, was not entirely without a parallel in the annals of 1681.
The violence of the parliament at London had led to its dissolu-
tion ; and, in order to insure the tractability of their successors,
thev wore assembled, by the king, at Oxford, where a concurrence
of circumstancts rendered the royal authority more paramount
than in any other city of the kingdom. To this parliament the
members came in an array, which more resembled the parliament
of the White Bands, in the reign of Edward the second, than any
that had sinpe taken place. Yet, though armed, and attended
by their retainers and the more ardent of their favourers, the leaders
of opposition expressed their apprehensions of danger from the
^•oyal party. The sixteen whig peers, iq their memorable petition
against this removal, complained, that the parliament would at
Oxford be exposed to the bloody machinations of the papists and
their adherents, " of whom too many had crept into his majesty's
guards." The aid of ballads and libellous prints was called in, to
represent this alteration of the vjsual place of meeting as a ma-
noeuvre to throw the parliament, its members, and its votes, at the
lept of an i^rbitrary monarch *, ^t is probable that this meeting,

• I cannot resist transcribing that ballad, which cost poor College, the

f)rolestant joiner, so cxtrcnicly dear. It is extracted troin Mr Lut^rel^8 co]-
cction, who has marked it tiniS. " A most scandalous libel against the go-
vernment, (or which, witli other things. College was justly executed." Thfc
jnslice of the execution may, I think, be questioned, unless, like Cinna the
poet, the luckless ballad-ruonger was hanged for his bad verses. Thete is pre-
<ixed a cut, representing the king with a double tace, carrying the house of
i-ommoiis in a shew-box at his back. In another copartmerit, he sticks fast i a


which rather Resembled a Polish diet than a British parliament,
would not have separated without some signal, and perhaps bloody
catastrophe, if the political art of Halifax, who was at the head
off the small moderate party, called Trimmers, joined to the re-
luctance of either faction to commence hostilities against an enemy
as fully prepared as themselves, had not averted so eminent a crisis.

tlie mud with his burden. In another, Tophara, the serjeant of the house of
commons, with the other officers of parliament, liberate the members, and
cram the bishops into the shew-box.

To the tune of — <' I am a senseless thing."

Come hither, Topham, come, with a hey, with a hej- ;
Bring a pipe and a drum, with a ho j

Where'er about I go.

Attend mj; raree show.
With a hey, trany, nony, nony, no.

Topham. ^

That monstrous foul beast, with a hey, with a ^ey.
Has houses twain in's chest, with a ho ;

O Cowper, Hughes, and Snow,

Stop thief with raree show.
With a hey, &c.

For if he should escape, with a hey, with a hey.
With Halifaxe's trap, with a ho.

He'll carry good Dom. Com.

Unto the pope of Rome,
With a hey, &c.

Be qniet, ye dull tools, with a hey, with a he^.
As other free-born fools, with a ho.

Do not all gaping stand

To see my slight of hand.
With a hey, &c.

'Tis not to Rome that I, with a liey, with a hey.
Lug about my trumpery, with a ho.

But Oxford, York, Carlisle,

And round about the isle,
With a hey, &c.

But if ihey would come out, with a hey, with a hey.
Let them first make a vote, with a ho.

To yield up all they have.

And Tower lords to save.
With a hey, &c.



In all particulars, excepting the actual assassination, the parlia-
ment of Oxford resembled the assembly of the States General at
Blois. The general character of t(he Duke of Monmouth certainly
had not many points of similarity ^o that of the Duke of Guise ;
but in one particular incident his conduct had been formed on that,
model, aud it h aa incident whi,(;h makes a, considerable ligMre ia

Now that is very hard, with a hey, with a hey.
Thou art worse than cut-nose guard, with a bo.

And riiiford. Dauby, Hide,

Halifax docs all oulri(^e.
With a hty, &c.

Holy Ghost, in bag of cloi^k, wi^i a hey, with a bey.
Quaking King in royal oak, with a ho.

And Rosamond in bower.

All badges are of power.
With a hey, 6i.c.

And popularity, with a hey, with a hey.
Adds power to majesty, with a ho ;

But Dora. Com. in little ease.

Will all the world displease.
With a hey, &c.

Let 'am hate me, so they fear, with a hey, with a hey.
Curst Cos has the best cheer, with a ho ;

Two Slates, in blind house pent.

Make brave strong government.
With a hey, &c.

But child of heathen Hobbes, with a hey, with a hey.
Remember old Dry Bobs, with a ho.

For fleecing England's flocks.

Long fed with bits and knocks.
With a hey, &c.

What's past is not to come, with a hey, wit^ a hey.
Now sate is David's bum, with a ho ;

Then hey for Oxiord ho.

Strong government, raree show.
With a hey, Sue.

Raree show is resouled, with a hey, with » bey.
This is worse than dcsouled, with a ho ;

May the mighty weight at's back

Make 's lecherous loins to crack.
With a hey, &c.


the tragedy. In September l679> after the king's illness, Mon-
mouth was disgraced, and obliged to leave the kingdom. He re-
tired to Holland, where he resided until the intrigues of Shaftes-
bury assured him the support of a party so strongly popular,
that he mi^bt return, in open defiance of the court. In the
November following, he conceived his presence necessary to ani-
mate his partizans ; and, without the king's permission for his re-
turn, he embarked at the Brill, and landed at London on the 27th,
at midnight, where the tumultuous rejoicings of the popular party
mure than compensated for the ol^curity of his departure f. This

Methinks he seems to stagger, with a hey, with a hey,
Whe but now did so swagger, with a hoj

God's fish he's stuck in the mire.

And all tlie fat's in the fire.
With a hey, &c.

Help Cooper, Hughs, and Snow, with a hey, witha hej.
To pull down raree show, with a ho :

So, so, the gj'ant's down.

Let's masters out of pound.
With a hey, 6ic.

And now you've freed the nation, with a hey, with a hey.
Gram in the convocation, with a ho.

With pensioners all and some.

Into this chest of Rome,
With a hey, &c.

And thrust in six-and-twenty, with a hey, with a hey^
With not guUties good plenty, with a ho.

And hoot them hence away

To Cologn or Breda,
With a hey, &c.

Haioo, the hunt's begun, with a hey, with a hey.
Like father like son, with a ho ;

Raree show in French lap

Is gone to take a nap.

And succession has the clap.
With a hey, trany, nony, nony, no.

t " The news of his landing being reported by the watch, it soon spread
abroad through the whole city ; insomuch, that before day-light they rang the
bells at St Giles in the Fields, placing several flambeaus on the top of the
steeple, and divers great bonefires were made, two of which were very large,
one in the Palace-yard at Westminster, and the other in Thames-street, near
the custom-house, which was kindled in the morning, and maintained burning
all day till evening, and then the universal joy of the people was expressed
in most of the streets throughout London and Westminster by bone-fires, fire-
works, and ringing of bells, accompanied with loud acclamations of joy, to
the great grief of the papists." An Account of the heroick Life and magnani-
mous Actions of the most illustrious Protestant Prince, James, Duke of Moiv-
mouth. London, i633. p. 93.


bold step was, in all its circumstances, very similar to the return
of the Duke of Guise from his government to Paris, against the
express command of Henry the second, together with his reception
by the populace, whom he came prepared to head in insurrection.
Above all, the bill of exclusion bore a striking resemblance to the
proceedings of the League against the King of Navarre, presump-
tive heir of the throne, whom, on account of his attachment to the
prolestant faith, they threatened to deprive of the succession.

The historical passages, corresponding in many particulars with
such striking accuracy, offered an excellent groundwork for a po-^
litical play, and the " Duke of Guise " was composed accordingly ;
Dryden making use of the scenes which he had formerly written on
the subject, and Lee contributing the remainder, which he eked
out by some scenes and speeches adopted from the " Massacre of
Paris," then lying by him in manuscript. The court, how-
ever, considered the representation of the piece as at least of
dubious propriety. The parallel was capable of being so extended
as to exhibit no very flattering picture of the king's politics ; and,
on the other hand, it is possible, that the fate of the Duke of Guise,
as identified with Monmouth, might shock the feelings of Charles,
and the justice of the audience.

Accordingly, we learn from the " Vindication," that the repre-
sentation of the piece was prohibited ; that it lay in the hands
of the lord chamherlain (Henry Lord Arlington) from before
mid-summer, l682, till two months after that term; and that
orders were not finally given for its being acted until the month
of December in the same year. The king's tenderness for the
Duke of Monmouth had by this time so far given way, that he
had ordered his arrest at Stafford ; and, from the dark prepara-
tions on both sides, it was obvious, that no measures were any
longer to be kept betwixt them. All the motives of delicacy and
prudence, which had prevented the representation of this obnoxious
party performance, were now therefore annihilated or overlooked.

Our author's part of the " Duke of Guise " is important, though
not of great extent, as his scenes contain some of the most striking
political sketches. The debate of the Council of Sixteen, with which
the play opens, was his composition ; the whole of the fourth act,
which makes him responsible for the alleged parallel betwixt Guise
and Monmouth, and the ridicule cast upon the sheriffs and citizens
of the popular party, with the first part of the fifth, which impli-
cates him in vindicating the assassination of Guise. The character
and sentiments of the king, in these scenes, are drawn very closely
after Davila, as the reader will easily see, from the Italian original
subjoined in the notes. That picturesque historian had indeed
miticipated almost all that even a poet could do, in conveying a
portraiture, equally minute and striking, of the stormy period
w hich he had undertaken to describe ; and, had his powers of dc-


scription been inferior, it is probable, that Dryden, hampered as
he was, by restraints of prudence and delicacy, wouUi not have
chosen to go far beyond the authority to which he referred the
lord chamberlain. The language of the play, at least in these
scenes, seldom rises above that of the higher tone of historical
oratory ; and the descriptions are almost literally taken from Da-
vila, and thrown into beautiful verse. In the character of Mar- i
moutiefe, there seems to be an allusion to the duchess of Buc- I
dcudi and Monmouth, whose influence was always, and some- |
times successfully, used to detach her husband from the desperate /
schemes of Shaftesbury and Armstrong. The introduction of the ^
necromancer, Malicorn, seems to refer to some artifices, by which j
the party of Monmouth endeavoured to call to their assistance the /
sanction of supernatural powers *. The particular story of Mali- '
corn is said to be taken from a narrative in Rosset's Histoires]
Tragiqnes, a wotk which the present editor has never seen. In
the conference between Mali<?orn and Melanax, Dryden has made
much use of his astrological knowledge; and its mystical terms
give a solemnity to the spirits predictions, which was pro-
bably deepened by the poet's secret belief in this visionary study.
As he borrowed liberally from Davila in the other parts of the
play, he has not here disdained to use the assistance of Pulci, 1
from whose romantic poem he has translated one or two striking
passages, as the reader will ^nd upon consulting the notes. The
last scene betwixt tlie necromancer and the fiend is horribly fine :

* " A relation was published in the name of one Elizabeth Freeman, af-
terwards called the luajror of Hatfield, setting forth, that, on the 24th of
January, the apparition of a woman, all in white {the Duke of Monmouth's
mother was Itere to be understood], with a white veil over her face, accosted
her with these words ; ' Sweetheart, the l5th of May is appointed for the
blood-ro^'al to be poisoned. iJe not afraid, for 1 am sent to tell thee.' That
on the ^7th the same appearance stood before her again, and she having
then acquired courage enough to lay it under t4ie usual adjuration, in the
name, &c. it assumed a more glorious shape, and said in a harsher tone of
voice, ' Tell King Charles from me, and bid him not remove liis parliament
(i. e. from London to Oxford), and stand to his council ;' adding, ' Do as I bid
you.' That on the 2Cth it appeared to her a third time, but said only, ' Do
your message ;' and that on the next night, when she saw it for the last time,
it said Jiolhmg at all. Those, who depend upon the people for support, must
try all manner of practices upon them, aud such fooleries as these sometimes
o.perate more forcibly than experiments of a more rational kind. Care was
besides taken to have this relation attested by Sir Joseph Jordan, a justice of
peace, and the rector of Hatfield, Dr Lee, who was one of the king's
.chaplains.- Nay, the message was actually sent to his majesty, and the
whole forgery very ofliciallv circulated over the kingdom." KAiiu's }lhU>r^
VujJ. I. p. 562.


the description of the approach of the Evil One, and the effect
which his presence produces upon the attendants, the domestic
animals, and the wizard himself, is an instance, aoiongst many, o£
the powerful interest which may he produced by a judicious appeal
to the early prejudices of superstition. I may be pardoned, how-
ever, when 1 add, that such scenes are, in general, unfit lor the
stage, where the actual appearance of a demon is apt to excite
emotions rather ludicrous than terrific. Accordingly, that of
Dryden failed in the representation. The circumstance, upon
which the destruction of the wizard turns, is rather puerile ; but
there are many similar fables in the annals of popular supersti-
tion f.

Lee's part of this play is, in general, very well written, and con-
tains Icbs rant than he usually puts in the mouths of his charac-

The factions have been long at rest which were so deeply agi-
tated by the first representation of this performance ; yet some
pains has been taken to trace those points of resemblance, which
^ave so much offence to one party, and triumph to tlie other.

t In truth, the devil and the conjuror did not always play upon the square,
but otten took the most unt'air advantages of each other. There is more than
one iubiance oi' bad faith in the history of that renowned enchanter, Peter
Fabel. On one occasion, he prevailed upon the devil, when he came to
carry him off, to repose himself in an enchanted chair, from which he retuscd
to liberate him, until he had grunted him an additional lease of seven years.
When tills term was also expired, he had the eloquence and art to prevail
on the fiend to allow him ii farther respite, till a wax taper, then nearly ex-
piring, was burned out. This boon beiug granted, he instantly put out the
light, and deposited the taper in the church at Edmonton. Hence, in Wei-
Ter's " Funeral Monuments," he is thus mentioned : " Here (at Edmonton)
lieth interred, under a seemly tombe witiiout inscription, the body of Peter
Fabeli, as the report goes, upon whom this fable was fathered, that lie,
by his wittie devices, beguiled the devill." p. 514. See also the Book of
his Merry Prankts. Another instance occurs, in the famous history ot*
Friar Bacon, (London 1666) where that renowned conjurer is recorded
to have saved a man, that had given himself to the devil on condition of
his debts being paid. The case was referred to the friar. ' Deceiver
of mankind, said he (speaking to the devil), it was thj bargain nerer
to meddle with him so long as he was indebted to any; now how canst
thou demand of him any thing, when he is indebted for all he hath to thee ?
When he payeth thee thy money, then take him as thy due ; till then thou
hast nothing to do with him ; and so I charge thee to be gone.' At this the
devil vanished with great liorrour; but Fryar Bacon comforted the gentle-
man, and sent him home with a quiet conscience, bidding him never to pay
the devil's money back, as he tendred his own safety, which he promised for
to observe." From these instances, Melanax might have quoted precedent
for iiif-isting on the literal execution of his stipulation with Malicorn, since,
to give tlie devil his due, the strict legal interpretation appears always to have
been applied to bargains of that nature.


Many must doubtless have escaped our notice ; but enough re-
mains to shew the singular felicity with which Dryden, in the pre-
sent instance, as in that of" Absalom and Achitophel,'' could adapt
the narrative of ancient or foreign transactions to the political
events of his own time, and " moralize two meanings in one word.'*
Altogether abstracted from this consideration, the " Duke of
Guise," as a historical play, possesses merit amply sufficient to
rescue it from the oblivion into which it has fallen.

The play was first acted 4th December, l682, and encountered
a stormy and dubious, if not an unfavourable, reception. But ns
the strength of the court party increased, the piece was enabled to
maintain its ground with more general approbation. It was per-
formed by the united comjfanies, and printed in l6"S3.






1 HE authors of this poem present it humbly to
your lordship's patronage, if you shall think it wor-

* Lawrence Hyde, created Earl of Rochester in l682, was the
second son of the famous Lord Clarendon, and affords a rare in-
stance of the son of a disgraced minister recovering that favour
at court, which had been withdrawn from his father. He was
now at the head of the Commissioners for the Treasury, and a pa-
tron of our poet; as appears from the terms of Dryden's letter, so-
liciting his interest in very affecting terms, and from the subsequent
dedication of " Cleonienes," where he aciinowledges his lordship's
goodness during the reign of two masters; and (hat, even from a
bare treasury, his success was contrary to that of Mr Cowley;
Gideon's fleece having been moistened, when all the ground
was dry around it. The Earl of Rochester was the more proper V
patron for the " Duke of Guise," as he was a violent opponent of X
the bill of exclusion. He was Lord High Treasurer in the raign '
pf James IL, and died in 1711.


thy of that honour. It has already been a confes-
sor, and was ahnost made a martyr for the royal \
cause: but having stood two trials from its ene- )
mies, — one before it was acted, another in the re- '
presentation, — and having been in both acquitted,
it is now to stand the public censure in the read-
ing : where since, of necessity, it must have the
same enemies, we hope it may also fmd the same
friends; and theiein we are secure, not only of the
greater number, but of the more honest and loyal
party. We only expected bare justice in the per-

Online LibraryJohn DrydenThe works of John Dryden, now first collected in eighteen volumes (Volume 7) → online text (page 1 of 30)