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folly was born and bread in them, and something of the Elkanah will be visible.”
This is Dryden's general declamation; I will not withhold from the reader a particular remark. Having gone through the first act, he says, “ to conclude this act with the most rumbling piece of nonsense spoken yet:
“ To flattering lightning our feign'd smiles conform,
Which, back'd with thunder, do but gild a storm." Conform a smile to lightning, make a smile imitate lightning, and flattering lightning: lightning sure is a threatening thing. And this lightning must gild a storm. Now, if I must conform my smiles to lightning, then my smiles must gild a storm too : to gild with smiles, is a new invention of gilding. And gild a storm by being backed with thunder, Thunder is part of the storm; so one part of the storm must help to gild another part, and to help by backing; as if a man would gild a thing the better for being backed, or having a load upon his back. So that here is gilding by conforming, smiling, lightning, backing, and thundering. The whole is as if I should say thus: I will make my counterfeit smiles look like a flattering stone horse, which, being backed with a trooper, does but gild the battle. I am mis. taken if nonsense is not here pretty thick sown. Sure the poet writ these two lines a-board some smack in a storm, and being sea-sick, spewed up a good lump of clotted nonsense at once."
Here is perhaps a sufficient specimen ; but as the pamphlet, though Dryden's, has never been thought worthy of republication, and is not easily to be found, it may gratify curiosity to quote it more largely :
-Whene'er she bleeds,
" That attends that breath. The poet is at breath
for when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarg’d,
Whom living we made foes, dead we'll make friends. If this be not a very liberal mess, I will refer myself to the stomach of any moderate guest.
And a rare mess it is, far excelling any Westminster white-broth, It is a kind of giblet porridge, made of the giblets of
a couple of young geese, stodged full of meteors, orbs, spheres, track, hideous draughts, dark characters, white forms and radiant lights, designed not only to please appetite, and indulge luxury; but it is also phystcal, being an approved medicine to purge choler; for it is propounded, by Morena, as a receipt to cure their fathers of their cholerick humours; and, were it written in characters as barbarous as the words, might very
for a doctor's bill. To conclude : it is porridge, 'tis a receipt, 'tis a pig with a pudding in the belly, 'tis I know not what : for, certainly, never any one that pretended to write sense had the impudence before to put such stuff as this into the mouths of those that were to speak it before an audience, whom he did not take to be all fools ; and after that to print it too, and expose it to the examination of the world. But let us see what we can make of this stuff.
For when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarg'd---Here he tells us what it is to be dead; it is to have our freed souls set free. Now, if to have a soul set free, is to be dead ; then to have a freed soul set free, is to have a dead man die.
Then, gently as a happy lover's sighThey two like one sigh, and that one sigh like two wandering meteors,
-Shall fly through the air That is, they shall mount above like falling stars, of else they shall skip like two Jacks with lanthorns, or Will with a whisp, and Madge with a candle,"
“And in their airy walk steal into their cruel fathers' breasts, like subtle guests. So that their fathers' breasts must be in an airy walk, an airy walk of a flier. And there they will read their souls, and track the spheres of their passions. That is, these
walking fliers, Jack with a lanthorn, &c. will put on his spectacles, and fall a reading souls ; and put on his pumps and fall a tracking of spheres : so that he will read and run, walk and fly, at the same time! Oh! Nimble Jack! Then he will see, how revenge here, how ambition there The birds will hop about. And then view the dark characters of sieges, ruins, murders, blood, and wars, in their orbs : Track the characters to their forms! Oh! rare sport for Jack ! Never was place so full of game as these breasts ! You cannot stir, but flush a sphere, start a character, or unkennel an orb !”
Settle's is said to have been the first play embellished with sculptures; those ornaments seem to have given poor Dryden great disturbance. He tries however to ease his pain by venting his malice in a parody.
“ The poet has not only been so imprudent to expose all this stuff, but so arrogant to defend it with an epistle ; like a saucy booth-keeper, that, when he had put a cheat upon the people, would wrangle and fight with any that would not like it, or would offer to discover it; for which arrogance our poet receives this correction; and, to jerk him a little the sharper, I will not transpose his verse, but by the help of his own words transnonsense sense, that, by my stuff, people may judge the better what his is :
Great boy, thy tragerly and sculptures done,
With noise they move, and from players' mouths rebound, When their tongues dance to thy words' empty sound, By thee inspir’d the rumbling verses roll, As if that rhyme and bombast lent a soul: And with that soul they seem taught duty too; To huffing words does humble nonsense bow, As if it would thy worthless worth enhance, To th' lowest rank of fops thy praise advance, To whom, by instinct, all thy stuff is déar : Their loud claps echo to the theatre. From breaths of fools thy commendation spreads, Fame sings thy praise with mouths of logger-heads. With noise and laughing each thy fustian greets, 'Tis clapt by choirs of empty-headed cits, Who have their tribute sent, and homage given, As men in whispers send loud noise to Heaven. 66 Thus I have daubed him with his own puddle ! and now we are come from aboard his dancing, masking, rebounding, breathing fleet : and, as if we had landed at Gotham, we meet nothing but fools and nonsense."
Such was the criticism to which the genius of Dryden could be reduced, between rage and terrour; rage with little provocation, and terrour with little danger. To see the highest mind thus levelled with the meanest, may produce some solace to the consciousness of weakness, and some mortification to the pride of wisdom. But let it be remembered that minds are not levelled in their powers, but when they are first levelled in their desires. Dryden and Settle had both placed their happiness in the claps of multitudes.
An Evenings Love, or The Mock Astrologer, a comedy, (1671) is dedicated to the illustrious duke of Newcastle, whom he courts by adding to his praises those of his lady, not only as a lover but a partner of his studies. It is unpleasing to think how many names, once celebrated, are since forgotten. Of New Castle's works nothing is now known but his Treatise on Horsemanship.