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DR Y DE N. “ game as these breasts! You cannot stir “ but you fush 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 parody.
'« The poet has not only been so impudent “ to expole all this stuff, but so arrogant to “ defend it with an epistle; like a faucy " 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 arro“ gance 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 trans-non-sense sense, that, by “ my stuff, people may judge the better what “ his is. “ Great Boy, thy tragedy and sculptures
“ done “ From press, and plates in fleets do home
"ward come : “ And in ridiculous and humble pride, “ Their course in ballad-fingers baskets
“ guide, “ Whose greasy twigs do all new beauties
"take, “ From the gay shews thy dainty sculptures
“ make. “ Thy lines a mess of rhiming nonsense
« yield, "" A fenseless tale, with flattering fustian “ fill'd.
“ No grain of senfe does in one line appear, " Thy words big bulks of boist'rous bom
" bast bear, “ With noise they move, and from players
" mouths rebound, .“ When their tongues dance to thy words
“ empty found. “ By thee infpir'd the rumbling verses roll, « As if that rhime 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 en
66 hance, “ To th' lowest rank of fops thy praise ad
"vance; “ To whom, by instinct, all thy stuff is
« dear; “ Their loud claps echo to the theatre. “ From breaths of fools thy commendation
“ spreads, “ Fame sings thy praise with mouths of log
“ gerheads. “ With noise and laughing each thy fustian
“ greets, «. 'Tis clapt by quires of empty-headed cits, “ Who have their tribute sent, and homage
" As men in whispers send loud noise to
" heaven. " Thus I have daubed him with his own “ puddle: and now we are come from aboard “ his dancing, masking, rebounding, breath“ ing fleet; and as if we had landed at Go
" tham, we meet nothing but fools and non« sense."
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 minds 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.
The Mock Astrologer, a comedy. is dedicated to the illustrious duke of Newcastle, whom he courts by adding to his praises thofe 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 fince forgotten. Of Newcastle's works nothing is now known but his treatise on Horsemanship.
The preface seems very elaborately written, and contains many just remarks on the Fathers of the English drama. Shakespeare's plots, he says, are in the hundred novels of Cinthio; those of Beaumont and Fletcher in Spanish stories ; Jonson only made them for himself. His criticisms upon tragedy, comedy, and farce, are judicious and profound. He endeavours to defend the immorality of some of his comedies by the example of former writers; which is only to say, that he was not the first nor perhaps the greatest offender. Against those ihat accused him of plagiarism, he alleges a favourable expression of the King:
“ He only desired that they, who accuse me « of thefts, would steal him plays like mine;" and then relates how much labour he spends in fitting for the English stage what he borrows from others.
Tyrannick Love, or the Virgin Martyr, was another tragedy in rhyme, conspicuous for many passages of strength and elegance, and many of empty noise and ridiculous turbulence. The rants of Maximin have been always the sport of criticism; and were at length, if his own confession may be trusted, the shame of the writer.
Of this play he takes care to let the reader know, that it was contrived and written in seven weeks. Want of time was often his excuse, or perhaps shortness of time was his private boast in the form of an apology.
It was written before The Conquest of Granada, but published after it. The design is to recommend piety. " I considered that plea“ sure was not the only end of poesy, and “ that even the instructions of morality were “ not so wholly the business of a poet, as “ that precepts and examples of piety were to “ be omitted; for to leave that employment “ altogether to the clergy, were to forget that “ religion was first taught in verse, which the “ laziness or dulness of succeeding priesthood “ turned afterwards into profe.” Thus foolishly could Dryden write, rather than not shew his malice to the parsons.
The two parts of the Conquest of Granada are written with a seeming determination to glut the publick with dramatick wonders; to exhibit in its highest elevation a theatrical meteor
of incredible love and impossible valour, and to leave no room for a wilder flight to the extravagance of posterity. All the rays of romantic heat, whether amorous or warlike, glow in Almanzor by a kind of concentration. He is above all laws; he is exempt from all restraints; he ranges the world at will, and governs wherever he appears. He fights without enquiring the cause, and loves in spite of the obligations of justice, of rejection by his mistress, and of prohibition from the dead. Yet the scenes are, for the most part delightful; they exhibit a kind of illustrious depravity, and majestick madness: such as, if it is sometimes despised, is often reverenced, and in which the ridiculous is mingled with the astonishing.
In the Epilogue to the second part of the Conquest of Granada, Dryden indulges his favourite pleasure of discrediting his predecesfors; and this Epilogue he has defended by a long postscript. 'He had promised a second dialogue, in which he should more fully treat of the virtues and faults of the English poets, who have written in the dramatick, epick, or Jyrick way. This promise was never formally performed; but, with respect to the dramatick writers, he has given us in his prefaces, and in this postscript, fomething equivalent; but his purpose being to exalt himself by the comparison, he shews faults distinctly, and only praises excellence in general terms.
A play thus written, in professed defiance of probability, naturally drew down upon itself the vultures of the theatre. One of the criticks that attacked it was Martin Clifford, to whom Sprat addressed the Life of Cowley,