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need to enquire why those verses were read, which, to all the attractions of wit, elegance, and harmony, added the co-operation of all the factious passions, and filled every mind with triumph or resentment.
It could not be supposed that all the provocation given by Dryden would be endured without resistance or reply. Both his person and his party were exposed in their turns to the shafts of satire, which, though neither so well pointed nor perhaps so well aimed, undoubtedly drew blood.
One of these poems is called Dryden's Satire on his Muse; ascribed, though, as Pope says, falsely, to Sommers, who was afterwards Chancellor. The poem, whose soever it was, has much virulence, and some spriteliness. The writer tells all the ill that he can collect both of Dryden and his friends.
The poem of Absalom and Achitophel had two answers, now both forgotten; one called Azaria and Hushai ; the other Absalom senior. Of these hostile compositions, Dryden apparently imputes Absalom senior to Settle, by quoting in his verses against him the second line: Azaria and Hushai was, as Wood says, imputed to him, though it is somewhat unlikely that he should write twice on the same occasion. This is a difficulty which I cannot remove, før want of a minuter knowledge of poetical transactions.
The same year he published the Medal, of which the subject is a medal struck on lord Shaftesbury's escape from a prosecution, by the ignoramus of a grand jury of Londoners.
In both poems he maintains the same principles, and saw them both attacked by the same antagonist. Elkanah Settle, who had answered Absalom, appeared with equal courage in opposition to the Medal, and published an answer called The Medal reversed, with so much suceess in both encounters, that he left the palm doubtful, and divided the suffrages of the nation. Such are the revolutions of fame, or such is the prevalence of fashion, that the man whose works have not yet been thought to deserve the care of collecting them, who died forgotten in an hospital, and whose latter years were spent in contriving shows for fairs, and carrying an elegy or epithalamium, of which the begiening and end were occasionally varied, but the intermediate parts were always the same, to every house where there was a funeral or a wedding, might with truth have had inscribed upon his stone,
Here lies the rival and antagonist of Dryden. Settle was, for his rebellion, severely chastised by Dryden under the pame of Doeg, in the second part of Absalom and Achitophel, and was perhaps for his factious audacity made the city poet, whose annual office was to describe the glories of the Mayor's day. Of these bards he was the last, and seems not much to have deserved even this degree of regard, if it was paid to his political opinions ; for he afterwards wrote a panegyric on the virtues of judge Jefferies; and what more could have been done by the mearest zealot for prerogative ?
Oftranslated fragments, or occasional poems, to enumeratethe titles, or settle the dates, would be tedious, with little usc. It may be observed, that as
Dryden's genius was commonly excited by some personal regard, he rarely writes upon a general topick.
Soon after the accession of king James, when the design of reconciling the nation to the church of Rome became apparent, and the religion of the court gave the only efficacious title to its favours, Dryden declared himself a convert to popery. This at any other time might have passed with little censure. Sir Kenelm Digly embraced popery; the two Reynolds reciprocally converted one another* ; and Chillingworth himself was a while so entangled in the wilds of controversy, as to retire for quiet to an infallible church. If men of argument and study can find such difficulties or such motives, as may either unite them to the church of Rome, or detain them in uncertainty, there can be no wonder that a man, who perhaps never enquired why he was a Protestant, should by an artful and experienced disputant be made a Papist, overborn by the sadden violence of new and unexpected arguments, or deceived by a representation which shews only the doubts on one part, and only the evidence on the other.
That conversion will always be suspected that apparently concurs with interest. He, 'that never finds his error till it hinders his progress towards wealth or honoury will not be thought to love Truth only for herself. Yet it may easily happen that information may come at a commodious time; and, as truth and interest are not by any fatal necessity at variance, that one may by accident introduce the other. When opinions are struggling into popularity, the arguments by which they are opposed or defended become more known; and he that changes his profession would perhaps have changed it before, with the like opportunities of instruction. This was the then state of Popery; every artifice was used to shew it in its fairest form; and it must be owned to be a religion of external appearance sufficiently attractive.
It is natural to hope that a comprehensive is likewise an elevated soul, and that whoever is wise is also honest. I am willing to believe that Dryden, having employed his mind, active as it was, upon different studies, and filled it; capacious as it was, with other materials, came unprovided to the controversy, and wanted rather skill to discover the right than virtue to maintain it. But enquiries into the heart are not for man; we must now leave him to his Judge.
The Priests, having strengthened their cause by so powerful an adherent, were not long before they brought him into action. They engaged him to defend the controversial papers found in the strong-box of Charles the Second, and, what was yet harder, to defend them against Stillingfleet.
With hopes of promoting Popery, lie was employed to translate Maimbourg's. History of the League, which he published with a large introduction. His
* Dr. Jolin Reynolds, who lived'temp. Jac. I. was at farst a zealous Papist, and his brother wil lian as eataest a Protestant, but by mucual disputatio cach converted the other. Vide Fuller's Church flistury, p. 47, book X. II.
name is likewise prefixed to the English Life of Francis Xavier; but I know not that he ever owned himself the translator. Perhaps the use of his name was a pious fraud, which however seems not to have had much effect; for 'neither of the books, I believe, was ever popular.
The version of Xavier's Life is commended by Brown in a pamphlet not written to flatter; and the occasion of it is said to have been, that the Queen when she solicited a son, made vows to him as her tużelary saint.
He was supposed to have undertaken to translate Varillas's History of Heresies; and, when Burnet published remarks upon it, I have written an Answer; upon which Burhet makes the following observation :
“I have been informed from England, that a gentleman, who is famous both “ før poetry and several other things, had spent three months in translating “ M. Varillas's History ; but that, as soon as my Reflections appeared, he “ discontinued his labour, finding the credit' of his author was gone. Now, “ if he thinks it is recovered by his Answer, he will perhaps go on with “his translation ; and this may be, for aught I know, as good an entertain“ ment for him as the conversation that he had set on between the Hinds and “ Panthers, and all the rest of animals, for whom M. Varillas may serve “ well enough as an author: and this history and that poem are such extra« ordinary things of their kind, that it will be but suitable to see the author « of the worst poem become likewise the translator of the worst history that " the age has produced. If his grace and his wit improve both proportiona" bly, he will hardly find that he has gained much by the change he has “ made, from having no religion to chuse one of the worst. It is true, he " had somewhat to sink from in matter of wit ; but, as for his morals, it is scarce possible for him to grow a worse man than he was:
He has lately “ wreaked his malice on me for spoiling his three months labour ; but in it “ he has done me all the honcur that any man can receive from him, which is as to be railed at by him. If I had ill-nature enough to prompt me to wish ic
a very bad wish for him, it should be, that he would go on and finish his “ translation. By that it will appear, whether the English nation, which “ is the most competent judge in this matter, has, upon the seeing our debate,
pronounced in M. Varillas's favour, or in mine. “ will suffer a little by it ; but at least it will serve to keep him in from “ other extravagancies; and if he gains little honour by this work, yet he “cannot lose so much by it as he has done by his last employment."
Having probably felt his own inferiority in theological controversy, he was desirous of trying whether, by bringing poetry to aid his arguments, he might become a more efficacious defender of his new profession. To reason in verse was, indeed, one of his powers ; but subtlety and harmony united are still feeble, when opposed to truth.
Actuated therefore by zeal for Rome, or hope of fame, he published the Hind and Panther, a poem in which the church of Rome, figured by the
It is true, Mr. D.
mill-white Hind, defends her tenets against the church of England, represented by the Panther, a beast beautiful, but spotted.
A fable which exhibits two beasts talking Theology, appears at once full of absurdity ; and it was accordingly ridiculed in the City Mouse and Country Mouse, a parody, written by Montague, afterwards earl of Halifax, and Prior, who then gave the first specimen of his abilities.
The conversion of such a man, at such a time, was not likely to pass uncensured. Three dialogues were published by the facetious Thomas Brown, of which the two first were called Reasons for Mr. Bayes's changing his religim : and the third, the Reasons of Mr. Hains the player's conversion and re-conversion. The first was printed in 1688, the second not till 1690, the third in 1691. The clamour seems to have been long continued, and the subject to have strongly fixed the publick attention.
In the two first dialogues Bayes is brought into the company of Crites and Eugenius, with whom he had formerly debated on dramatick poetry. The two talkers in the third are Mr. Bayes and Mr. Hains.
Brown was a man not deficient in literature, nor destitute of fancy; but he seems to have thought it the pinnacle of excellence to be a merry fellow; and therefore laid out his powers upon small jests of gross buffoonery, so that his performances have little intrinsick value, and were read only while they were recommended by the novelty of the event that occasioned them.
These dialogues are like his other works : what sense or knowledge they contain is disgraced by the garb in which it is exhibited. One great source of pleasure is to call Dryden little Bayes. Ajax, who happens to be mentioned, is," he that woré as many cow-hides upon his shield as would have furnished "half the king's army with shoe-leather.”
Being asked whether he has seen the Hind and Panther, Crites answers : "Seen it! Mr. Bayes, why I can stir no where but it pursues me; it haunts
me worse than a pewter-buttoned serjeant does a decayed cit. Sometimes I "meet it in a band-box, when my laundress brings home my linen: soine
times, whether I will or no, it lights my pipe at a coffee-house; some"times it surprises me in a trunk-maker's shop; and sometimes it refreshes " my memory for me on the backside of a Chancery-lane parcel. For your “ comfort, too, Mr. Bayes, I have not only seen it, as you may perceive, “ but have read it too, and can quote it as freely upon occasions as a frugal tradesman can quote
that noble treatise the Worth of a penny to his extravagant 'prentice, that revels in stewed apples, and penny custards."
The whole animation of these compositions arises from a profusion of ludia crous and affected comparisons.
" To secure one's chastity," says Bayes, "little more is necessary than to leave off a correspondence with the other sex, "which, to a wise man, is no greater a punishment than it would be to a fanatic parson to be forbid seeing the Cheats and the Committee; or for my Lord
“ Mayor and Aldermen to be interdicted the sight of the London Cuckolds." This is the general strain, and therefore I shall be easily excused the labour of more transcription.
Brown does not wholly forget past transactions: “You began,” says Crites to Bayes, "a very indifferent religion, and have not mended the matter in
your last choice. It was but reason that your Muse, which appeared first “ in a Tyrant's quarrel, should employ her last efforts to justify the usur“ pations of the Hind." Next
year the nation was summoned to celebrate the birth of the prince. Now was the time for Dryden to rouse his imagination, and strain his voice. Tappy days were at hand, and he was willing to enjoy and diffuse the anticipated blessings. He published a poem, filled with predictions of greatness and prosperity! predictions, of which it is not necessary to tell how they have been verified.
A few months passed after these joyful notes, and every blossom of popish hope was blasted for ever by the Revolution. A papist now could be no longer Laureat. The revenue, which he had enjoyed trith so much pride and praise, was transferred to Shadwell, an oldene my, whom he had formerly stigmatised by the name of Og. Dryden could not decently complain that he was deposed; but seemed very angry that Shadwell succeeded him, and has therefore celebrated the intruder's inauguration in a poem exquisitely satirical, called Mac Flecknne ; of which the Dunciad, as Pope himself declares, is an imitation, though more extended in its plan, and more diversified in its incidents.
It is related by Prior, that Lord Dorset, when, as chamberlain, he was constrained to eject Dryden from his office, gave him from his own purse an allowance equal to the salary. This is no romantick or incredible act of generosity; an hundred a year is often enough given to claims less cogent, by men less famed for liberality. Yet Dryden always represented himself as suffering under a public infliction ; and once particularly demands respect for the patience with which he endured the loss of his little fortune. His patron might, indeed, enjoin him to suppress his bounty; but if he suffered nothing, he should not have complained.
During the short reign of king James he had written nothing for the stage*, being, in his opinion, more profitably employed in controversy and flattery. Of praise he might perhaps have been less lavish without inconvenience, for James was never said to have much regard for poetry : he was to be flattered only by adopting his religion.
Times were now changed: Dryden was no longer the court-poet, and was to look back for support to his former trade ; and having waited about two years, either considering himself as discountenanced by the publick, or perhaps expecting a second Revolution, be produced Don Sebastian in 1690; and in the next four years four dramas more.
* Albiga and Albianas must bowever be excepted. E.