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upon an obnoxious priesthood, whom he, in common with all the nation, believed to have been engaged in the darkest intrigues against the king and government. I am afraid that this task was the more pleasing, from that prejudice against the clergy, of all countries and religions, which, as already noticed, our author displays, in common with other wits of that licentious age*. The character of the Spanish Friar was not, however, forgotten, when Dryden became a convert to the Roman Catholic persuasion; and, in many instances, as well as in that just quoted, it was assumed as the means of fixing upon him a charge of inconsistency in politics, and versatility in religion t.
The tragic part of the “ Spanish Friar” has uncommon merit. The opening of the Drama, and the picture of a besieged town in the last extremity, is deeply impressive, while the description of the noise of the night attack, and the gradual manner in which the intelligence of its success is communicated, arrests the atten. tion, and prepares expectation for the appearance of the hero, with all the splendour which ought to attend the principal character in tragedy. The subsequent progress of the plot is liable, to a capital objection, from the facility with which the queen, amiable and virtuous, as we are bound to suppose her, consents to the murder of the old dethroned monarch. We question if the operation of any motive, however powerful, could have been plead
* « Thus we see,” says Collier, “how hearty these people are in their illo will; how they attack religion under every form, and pursue the priesthood through all the subdivisions of opinion. Neither Jews nor Heathens, Turk nor Christiar:s, Rome nor Geneva, church nor conventicle, can escape them. They are afraid lest virtue should have any quarters, undisturbed conscience any corner to retire to, or God worshipped in any place.” Short View, &-c. p. 110.
+ " I have read somewhere in Mons. Rapin's Reflections sur la Poetique, that a certain Venetian nobleman, Andrea Naugeria by name, was wont every year to sacrifice a Martial to the manes of Catullus : In imitation of this, a celebrated poet, in the preface before the Spanish Friar, is pleased to acquaint the world, that he has indignation enough to burn a Bussy D'Amboys, aunually, to the memory of Ben Jonson. Since the modern ceremony, of offering up one author at the altar of another, is likely to advance into a fashion ; and having already the authority of two such great men to recommend it, the courteous reader may be pleased to take notice, that the author of the following dialogue is resolved, (God willing) on the festival of the Seven Sleepers, as long as he lives, to sacrifice the Hind and Panther to the memory of Mr Quarels and John Bunyan : Or, if a writer that has notoriously contradicted himself, and espoused the quarrel of two different parties, may be considered under two distinct characters, be designs to deliver up the author of the Hind and Panther, to be lashed severely by, and to beg pardon of, the worthy gentleman that wrote the Spanish Friar, and the Religio Laici.” The reason of Mr Bayes' changing his religion. Preface:
ed with propriety, in apology for a breach of theatrical decorum, so gross, and so unnatural. But, in fact, the queen is only actuated by a sort of reflected ambition, a desire to secure to her lover a crown, which she thought in danger; but which, according to her own statement, she only valued on his account. This is surely too remote and indirect a motive, to urge a female to so horrid à crime. There is also something vilely cold-hearted, in her attempt to turn the guilt and consequences of her own, crime
upon Bertran, who, whatever faults he might have to others, was to the queen no otherwise obnoxious, than because the victim of her own inconstancy. The gallant, virtuous, and enthusiastic character of Torrismond, must be allowed, in some measure, to counterbalance that of his mistress, however unhappily he has placed his affections. But the real excellence of these scenes consists less in peculiarity of character, than in the vivacity and power of
language, which, seldom sinking into vulgarity, or rising into bombast, maintains the mixture of force and dignity, best adapted to the expression of tragic passion. Upon the whole, as the comic part of this play is our author's master. piece in comedy, the tragic plot may be ranked with his very best efforts of that kind, whether in “ Don Sebastian,” or “ All for Love."
The“ Spanish Friar" appears to have been brought out shortly after Mr Thynne's murder, which is alluded to in the Prologue, probably early in 1681-2. The whimsical caricature, which it presented to the public, in Father Dominic, was received with rapture by the prejudiced spectators, who thought nothing could be exaggerated in the character of a Roman Catholic priest. Yet, the satire was still more severe in the first edition, and afterwards considerably softened t. It was, as Dryden himself calls it, a Protestant play; and certainly, as Jeremy Collier somewhere says, was rare Protestant diversion, and much for the credit of the Reformation. Accordingly, the " Spanish Friar" the only play prohibited by James II. after his accession; an interdict, which may be easily believed no way disagreeable to the author, now a convert to the Roman church. remarkable, that, after the Revolution, it was the first play represented by order of queen Mary, and honoured with her presence; a choice, of which she had abundant reason to repent, as the serious part of the piece gave as much scope for malicious application against herself, as the comic against the religion of her father *.
It is very
+ « The Revolter,” a tragi-comedy, 1687, p. 29.
* It is impossible to avoid transcribing the whole account of this representation, with some other curious particulars, coutained in a letter from the
earl of Nottingham, pablished by Sir John Dalrymple, from a copy given him by the bishop of Dromore ; and also inserted by Mr Malone in his third volume of Dryden's prose works.
“ I am loth to send blank paper by a carrier, but am rather willing to send some of the tattle of the town, than nothing at all; which will at least serve for an hour's chat -and then convert the scrawl to its proper use.
“ The only day her Majesty gave herself the diversion of a play, and that on which she designed to see another, has furnished the town with discourse for near a month. The choice of the play was The Spanish FRIAR, the only play forbid by the late K[ing]. Some unhappy expressions, among which those that follow, put her in some disorder, and forced her to hold up her fan, and often look behind her, and call for ber palatine and hood, and any thing she could next think of; while those who were in the pit before her, turned their heads over their shoulders, and all in general directed their looks towards her, whenever their fancy led them to make any application of what was said. In one place, where the queen of Arragon is going to church in procession, 'tis said by a spectator, - Very good ; she usurps the throne, keeps the old king in prison, and, at the same time, is praying for a blessing on her army ;'-And when said, " That 'tis observed at Court, who weeps, and who wears black for good king Sancho's death,' 'tis said, “Who is that, that can flatter a Court like this ? Can I sooth tyranny ? seem pleas'd to see my Royal Master murthered ; his crown usurped ; a distaff in the throne ??And • What title has this queen, but lawless force; and force must pull her down.'-Twenty more things are said, which may be wrested to what they were never designed : but however, the observations then made furnished the town with talk, till something else happened, which gave it much occasion for discourse ; for another play being ordered to be acted, the queen came not, being taken up with other diversion. She dined with Mrs Gradens, the famous woman in the hall, that sells fine laces and head-dresses ; from thence she went to the Jew's, that sells Indian things; to Mrs Ferguson's, De Vett's, Mrs Harrison's, and other Indian houses; but not to Mrs Potter's, though in her way; which caused Mrs Potter to say, that she might as well have hoped for that honour as others, considering that the whole design of bringing the queen and king was managed at her house, and the consultations held there; so that she might as well have thrown away a little money in raffling there, as well as at the other houses : but it seems that my lord Devonshire has got Mrs Potter to be laundress: she has not much countenance of the queen, her daughter still keeping the Indian house her mother bad. The same day the queen went to one Mrs Wise's, a famous woman for telling fortunes, but could not prevail with her to tell any thing; though to others she has been very true, and has foretold that king James shall come in again, and the duke of Norfolk shall lose his head : the last, I suppose, will naturally be the consequence of the first. These things, however innocent, have passed the censure of the town : and, besides a private reprimand given, the king gave one in public; saying to the queen, that he heard she dined at a bawdy-house, and desired the next time she went, ne might go. She said, she had done nothing but what the late queen had done. He asked her, if she meant to make her, her example. More was said on this occasion than ever was known before ; but it was borne with all the submission of a good wife, who leaves all to the direction of the k, and diverts herself with walking six or seven miles a-day, and looking after her buildings, making of fringes, and such like innocent tbings ; and does not meddle in government, though she has better title to do it than the late queen had.”
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
LORD HAUGHTON *.
When I first designed this play, I found, or
, thought I found, somewhat so moving in the serious part of it, and so pleasant in the comic, as might deserve a more than ordinary care in both; accordingly, I used the best of my endeavour, in the management of two plots, so very different from each other, that it was not perhaps the talent of every writer to have made them of a piece. Neither have I attempted other plays of the
John, Lord Haughton, eldest son of the Earl of Clare. He succeeded to his father, was created Marquis of Clare, and died 1711, leaving an only daughter, who married the eldest son of the famous Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford.
same nature, in my opinion, with the same judgment, though with like success. And though many poets may suspect themselves for the fondness and partiality of parents to their youngest children, yet I hope I may stand exempted from this rule, because I know myself too well to be ever satisfied with my own conceptions, which have seldom reached to those ideas that I had within mę; and consequently, .I may presume to have liberty to judge when I write more or less pardonably, as an ordinary marksman may know certainly when he shoots less wide at what he aims. Besides, the care and pains I have bestowed on this, beyond my other tragi-comedies, may reasonably make the world conclude, that either I can do nothing tolerably, or that this poem is not much amiss. Few good pictures have been finished at one sitting; neither can a true just play, which is to bear the test of ages, be produced at a heat, or by the force of fancy, without the maturity of judgment. For my own part, I have both so just a diffidence of myself, and so great a reverence for my audience, that I dare venture nothing without a strict examination; and
! am as much ashamed to put a loose indigested play upon the public, as I should be to offer brass money in a payment; for though it should be taken, (as it is too often on the stage) yet it would be found in the second telling; and a judicious reader will discover, in his closet, that trashy stuff, whose glittering deceived him in the action. I have often heard the stationer sighing in his shop, and wishing for those hands to take off his melancholy bargain, which clapped its performance on the stage. In a playhouse, every thing contributes to impose upon the judgment; the lights, the scenes, the habits, and, above all, the grace of action, which is commonly the best where there is the most need of it,