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In 1693 appeared a new version of Juvenal and Persius. Of Juvenal he translated the first, third, sixth, tenth, and sixteenth satires; and of Persius the whole work. On this occasion he introduced his two sons to the publick, as nurselings of the Muses. The fourteenth of Juvenal was the work of John, and the seventh of Charles Dryden.. He prefixed a very ample preface in the form of a dedication to lord Dorset ; and there gives an account of the design which he had once formed to write an epic poem on the actions either of Arthur or the Black Prince. · He considered the epick as necessarily including some kind of supernatural agency, and had imagined a new kind of contest between the guardian angels of kingdoms, of whom he conceived that each might be represented zealous for bis charge, without any intended opposition to the purposes of the Supreme Being, of which all created minds must in part be ignorant.
This is the most reasonable scheme of celestial interposition that ever was formed. The surprizes and terrors of enchantments, which ave succeedled to the intrigues and oppositions of pagan deities, afford very striking scenes, and open a vast extent to the imagination; but, as Boileau observes, and Beilezu will be seldom found mistaken, with this incurable defect, that in a contest between heaven and hell we know at the beginning which is to prevail ; for this reason we follow Rinaldo to the enchanted wood with more curiosity than terror.
In the scheme of Dryden there is one great difficulty, which yet he would perhaps have had address enough to surmount. In a war justice can be buton one side; and, to entitle the hero to the protection of angels, he must fight in defence of indubitable right. Yet some of the celestial beings, thus opposed to each other, must have been represented as defending guilt.
That this poem was never written, is reasonably to be lamented. It would doubtless have improved our numbers, and enlarged our language, and might perhaps have contribut •' by pleasing instruction to rectify our opinions, and purify our manners.
What he required as the indispensable condition of such an undertaking, a public stipend, was not likely in these times to be obtained. Riches were not become familiar to us, nor had the nation yet learned to be liberal.
This plan be charged Black more with stealing: only, says he, “The guar“dian angels of kingdoms were machines too ponderous for him to manage."
In 1694, he began the most laborious and difficult of all his works, the translation of Virgil; from which he borrowed two months, that he might turn Fresnoy's Art of Painting into English prose. The preface, which he boasts to have written in twelve mornings, exbibits a parallel of poetry and painting, with a miscellaneous collection of critical remarks, such as cost a mind stored like his no labour to produce them.
In 1697, he published his version of the works of Virgil; and, that no opportunity of profit might be lost, dedicated the Pastorals to the lord Clifford,
the Georgics to the earl of Chesterfield, and the Æneid to the earl of Mulgrár. This economy of flattery, at once lavish and discreet, did not pass witho observation.
This translation was censured by Milbourne, a clergy man, styled by Pop “ the fairest of criticks,” because he exhibited his own version to be compare with that which he condemned.
His last work was his Fables published in consequence, as is supposed, a contract now in the hands of Mr. Tonson; by which he obliged himself, consideration of three hundred pounds, to finish for the press ten thousan verses.
In this volume is comprised the well-known ode on St. Cecilia's day, which as appeared by a letter communicated to Dr. Birch, he spent a fortnight in com posing and correcting. But what is this to the patience and diligence of Boi leau, whose Equivoque, a poem of only three hundred and forty-six lines, too from his life eleven months to write it, and three years to revise it !
Part of this book of Fables is the first Iliad in English, intended as a speci men of a version of the whole. ' Considering into what hands Homer was di fall, the reader cannot but rejoice that this project went no further.
The time was now at hand which was put an end to all his schemes and labours. On the first of May 1701, having been some time, as he tells us, & cripple in his limbs, he died in Gerard-street, of a mortification in his leg.
There is extant a wild story relating to some vexatious events that happened at his funeral, which at the end of Congreve's Life, by a writer of I know not what credit, are thus related, as I find the account transferred to a biographical dictionary:
“ Mr. Dryden dying on the Wednesday morning, Dr. Thomas Sprat, then
bishop of Rochester and dean of Westininster, sent the next day to the lady « Elizabeth Howard, Mr. Dryden's widow, that he would make a present of “ the ground, which was forty pounds, with all the other abbey-fees. Thelord “ Halifax likewise sent to the lady Elizabeth, and Mr. Charles Dryden her
son, that, if they would give him leave to bury Mr. Dryden, he would inter “him with a gentleman's private funeral, and afterwards bestow five hundred
pounds on a monument in the Abbey; which as they had no reason to refuse, “ they accepted. On the Saturday following the company came ; the corpse
was put into a velvet hearse, and eighteen mourning coaches, filled with “ company, attended. When they were just ready to move, the lord Jefferies, “ son of lord chancellor Jefferies, with some of his rakish companions com“ ing by, asked whose funeral it was: and being told Mr. Dryden's, he said, “What! shall Dryden, the greatest honour and ornament of the nation, o be buried after this private manner! No gentlemen, let all that loved “ Mr. Dryden, and honour his memory, alight and join with me in gaining
my lady's consent to let me have the honour of his interment, which shall be * after another manner than this; and I will bestow a thousand pounds on a
6 monument in the Abbey for him.' The gentlemen in the coaches, not " knowing of the bishop of Rochester's favour, nor of the lord Halifax's ge“ nerous design (they both having, out of respect to the family, enjoined " the lady Elizabeth and her son to keep their favour concealed to the world, " and let it pass for their own expence), readily came out of the coaches and " attended lord Jefferies up to the lady's bed-side, who was then sick. He “ repeated the purport of what he had before said; but she absolutely refusing, " he fell on his knees, vowing never to rise till his request was granted. The " rest of the company by his desire kneeled also; and the lady being under a " sudden surprize, fainted away. As soon as she recovered her speech, she " cried, No, no. Enough, gentlemen, replied he; my lady is very good, she
says, Go, go. She repeated her former words with all her strength, but in « vain ; for her feeble voice was lost in their acclamations of joy; and the " lord Jefferies ordered the hearsemen to carry the corpse to Mr. Russel's, “ an undertaker in Cheapside, and leave it there till he should send orders for “ the embalment, which, he added, should be after the royal manner. His “ directions were obeyed, the company dispersed, and lady Elizabeth and her
son remained inconsolable. The next day Mr. Charles Dryden waited on " the lord Halifax and the bishop, to excuse his mother and himself, by
relating the real truth. But neither his lordship nor the bishop would ad“ mit of any plea ; especially the latter, who had the Abbey lighted, the
ground opened, the choir attending, an anthem ready set, and himself "waiting for some time without any corpse to bury. The undertaker, after “three days expectance of orders for embalment without receiving any, « waited on the lord Jefferies, who pretending ignorance of the
matter, turned it off with an illnatured jest, saying, that those “ who observed the orders of a drunken frolick deserved no better ; " that he remembered nothing at all of it; and that he might do "what he pleased with the corpse. Upon this, the undertaker waited upon " the lady Elizabeth and her son, and threatened to bring the corpse home " and set it before the door. They desired a day's respite, which was granted. “Mr. Charles Dryden wrote a handsome letter to the lord Jefferies, who re“ turned it with this cool answer,' That he knew nothing of the matter, “and would be troubled no more about it.” He then addressed the lord Halifax " and the bishop of Rochester, who absolutely refused to do any thing in it. " In this distress Dr. Garth sent for the corpse to the College of Physicians, " and proposed a funeral by subscription, to which himself set a most noble example. At last a day, about three weeks after Mr. Dryden decease, was appointed for the interment. Dr. Garth pronounced a fine latin oration,
at the College, over the corpse; which was attended to the Abbey by a "numerous train of coaches. When the funeral was over, Mr. Charles Dryden " sent a challenge to the lord Jefferies, who refusing to answer it, he sent " several others, and went often himself; but could neither get a letter deli"vered, nor admittance to speak to him; which soincensed him, that he resolved,
Śc since his lordship refused to answer him like a gentleman, that he wou . 6 warch an opportunity to meet, and fight off-hand, though with all the rul " of honour'; which lis Lordship hearing left the town: and Mr. Cleri « Dryden could never have the satisfaction of meeting him, though he soug 6 it till his death with the utmost application."
This story I once intended to omit, as it appears with no great evidence nor have I met with any confirmation, but in a letter of Farquhar; and only, relates that the funeral of Dryden was tumultuary and confused *
Supposing the story true, we may remark, that the gradual change of me ners, though imperceptible in the process, appears great when different timi and those not very distant are compared. If at this time a young drunken Lo should interrupt the pompous regularity of a magnificent funeral, what wou be the event, but that he would be justled out of the way, and compelled be quiet? If he should thrust himself into a house, he would be sent rough away; and, what is yet more to the honour of the present time, I believeth those, who had subscribed to the funeral of a man like Dryden, would nc for such an accident, have withdrawn their contributions t.
He was buried among the poets in Westminster Abbey, where, though th duke of Newcastle had, in a general dedication prefixed by, Congreve to hi dramatick works, accepted thanks for his intention of erecting him'a monu ment, he lay long without distinction, till the duke of Buckinghamshire gar: him a tablet, inscribed only with the name of DRYDEN,
He married the lady Elizabeth Howard, daughther of the earl of Berkshire with circumstances, according to the satire imputed to lord Sommers, not ver honourable to either party : by her he had three sons. Charles, John, an Henry. Charles was Usher of the palace to Pope Clement the XIth; and, vi siting England in 1704, was drowned in an attempt to swim across the Thame a: Windsor.
* An earlier account of Dryden's funeral than that above cited, 'thougl without the circumstances that preceded it; is given by Edward Ward, who in bis London Spy, published in 1706, relates, that on the occasion there was a performance of solemn Musick at the College, and that at the procession which' himself suw, standing at the end of Chancery-lane, Fleet-street, there was a concert of bueta boys and trumpets. The day of Dryden's interment, he says was Monday the 13th of May, which according to Johnson, was twelve days after bis deceasë, and thews how long his funeral wa in suspense. Warck kuew 'not that the expence of it was defrayed 'by subcription ; but complimente jord Jefferies for 60 pious an undertaking. He also says, that the cause of Dryden's death was an isfummatiori in his tuc, occasioned by the flesh growing over the nail, which being neglected, plus duced a mortification in his leg. Hi
May 3, 1900. Co
† In the Register of the College of Physicians, is the following Entry : « mitiis Censoriis ordinariis. At the request of several persons of quality, that Mr. Dryde mich « be carried front the College of Physicians to be interred at Westminster, it was unanimously " granted by the President and Censors."
This Entry is not calculated to afford any credit to the narrative concerning lurd. Jeficties. E.
John was author of a comedy called The Husband his own Cuckold. fe is said to have died at Rome. Henry entered into some religious order. It is some proof of Dryden's sincerity in his second religion, that he taught it to his sons. A man, conscious of hypocritical profession in himself, is not likely to convert others; and as his sons were qualified in 1693 to appear among the translators of Juvenal, they must have been taught some religion before their father's change.
Of the person of Dryden I know not any account ; of his mind, the pora trait which has been left by Congreve, who knew him with great familiarity, is such as adds our love of his manners to our admiration of his genius. Не
was," we are told, “ of a nature exceedingly humane and compassionate, “ ready to forgive injuries, and capable of a sincere reconciliation with those " that had offended him. His friendship, where he professed it, went be
yond his professions. He was of a very easy, of very pleasing access ; but “s somewhat slow, and, as it were, diffident in his advances to others; he had « that in his nature which abhorred intrusion into any society wliatever. He " was therefore less known, and consequently his character became more liable “ to misapprehensions and misrepresentations : he was very modest and very • easily to be discountenanced in his approaches to his cquals or superiors. As “ his reading had been very extensive, so was he very happy in a memory “ tenacious of every thing that he had read. He was not more possessed of “ knowledge than he was communicative of it; but then his communication
was by no means pedantick, or imposed upon the conversation, but just
such, and went so far as, by the natural turn of the conversation in which he “ he was engaged, it was necessarily promoted or required. He was ex“tremely ready, and gentle in his correction of the errors of any writer " who thought fit to consult him, and full as ready and patient to admit the “ repréhensions of others, in respect of his own oversights or mistakes.”
To this account of Congreve nothing can be objected but the fondness of friendship; and to have excited that fondness in such a mind is no small degree of praise. The disposition of Dryden, however, is shewn in this character rather as it exhibited itself in cursory conversation, than as it operated on the more important parts of life. His placability and his friendship indeed were solid virtues; but courtesy and good humour are often found with little real worth. Since Congreve, who knew him well, has told us no more, the rest must be collected as it can from other testimonies, and particularly from those notices which Dryden has very liberally given us of himself.
The modesty which made him so slow to adyance, and soeasy to be repulsed, tras certainly no suspicion of deficient merit, or unconscļousness of his own value: he appears to have known, in its whole extent, the dignity of his own character, and to have set a very high value on his own powers and perfor
He probably did not offer his conversation, because he expected it Vol. 1.