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The libel in which Blackmore traduced him was a Satire upon Wit; in which, having lamented the exuberance of false wit and the deficiency of true, he proposes that all wit should be recoined before it is current, and appoints masters of assay who shall reject all that is light or debased. 'Tis true, that when the coarse and worth
less dross Is purg'd away, there will be mighty loss ; Ev’n Congreve, Southern, manly Wy
cherly, When thus refin'd, will grievous suff'rers
be; Into the melting-pot when Dryden comes, What horrid stench will rise, what noisome
fumes! .... How will he shrink, when all his lewd allay,
And wicked mixture, shall be purg'd away? Thus stands the passage in the last edition ; but in the original there was an abatement of the censure, beginning thus : But what remains will be so pure, 'twill
bear Th' examination of the most severe. Blackmore finding the censure resented, and the civility disregarded, ungenerously omitted the softer part. Such variations discover a writer who consults his passions more than his virtue; and it may be reasonably supposed that Dryden imputes his enmity to its true cause. : Of Milbourne he wrote only in general terms, such as are always ready at the call of anger, whether just or not: a short extract will be sufficient. He pretends a quarrel to me, that I have fallen foul upon priesthood; if I have, I am only to ask pardon of good priests, and am afraid his share of the reparation will come to little. Let him be satisfied that he shall never be able to force himself upon me for an adversary; I contemn him too much to enter into competition with him.
that vation, revenue
As for the rest of those who have written against me, they are such scoundrels that they deserve not the least notice to be taken of them. Blackmore and Milbourne are only distinguished from the crowd by being remembered to their infamy.
Dryden indeed discovered, in many of his writings, an affected and absurd malignity to priests and priesthood, which naturally raised him many enemies, and which was sometimes as unseasonably resented as it was exerted, Trapp is angry that he calls the sacrificer in the Georgicks the holy butcher : the translation is indeed ridiculous, but Trapp's anger arises from his zeal, not for the author, but the priest; as if any reproach of the follies of paganism could be extended to the preachers of truth.
Dryden's dislike of the priesthood is imputed by Langbaine, and I think by Brown, to a repulse which he suffered when he solicited ordination; but he denies, in the preface to his Fables, that he ever designed to enter into the church; and such a denial he would not have hazarded, if he could have been convicted of falsehood.
Malevolence to the clergy is seldom at a great distance from irreverence of religion, and Dryden affords no exception to this obser,
vation. His writings exhibit many passages, which, with all the allowance that can be made for characters and occasions, are such as piety would not have admitted, and such as may vitiate light and unprincipled minds. But there is no reason for supposing that he disbelieved the religion which he disobeyed. He forgot his duty rather than disowned it. His tendency to profaneness is the effect of levity, negligence, and loose conversation, with a defire of accommodating himself to the corruption of the times, by venturing to be wicked as far as he durst. When he professed himself a convert to Popery, he did not pretend to have received any new conviction of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.
The persecution of criticks was not the worst of his vexations; he was much more disturbed by the importunities of want. His complaints of poverty are so frequently repeated, either with the dejection of weakness sinking in helpless misery, or the indignation of merit claiming its tribute from mankind, that it is impossible not to detest the age which could impose on such a man the necessity of such soli. citations, or not to despise the man who could submit to such solicitations without necessity.
Whether by the world's neglect, or his own imprudence, I am afraid that the greatest part of his life was passed in exigencies. Such outcries were surely never uttered but in severe pain. Of his supplies or his expences no probable estimate can now be made. Except the salary of the Laureate, to which king James added the office of Historiographer, perhaps with some additional emoluments, his whole revenue seems to have been casual ; and it is well known that he feldom lives frugally who lives by chance. Hope is always liberal, and they that trust her promises make little scruple of revelling to-day on the profits of the morrow.
Of his plays the profit was not great, and of the produce of his other works very little intelligence can be had. By discoursing with the late amiable Mr. Tonson, I could not find that any memorials of the transactions between his predecessor and Dryden had been preserva ed, except the following papers :
“ I do hereby promise to pay John Dryden, “ Esq; or order, on the 25th of March 1699, “ the sum of two hundred and fifty guineas, “ in consideration of ten thousand verses, “ which the said John Dryden, Esq; is to de“ liver to me Jacob Tonson, when finished, " whereof feven thousand five hundred verses, “ more or less, are already in the said Jacob “ Tonson's possession. And I do hereby far“ther promise, and engage myself, to make “ up the said sum of two hundred and fifty “ guineas three hundred pounds sterling to “ the said John Dryden, Èsq; his executors, “ administrators, or assigns, at the beginning “ of the second impression of the said ten thou“ fand verses.
« In witness whereof I have hereunto set “ my hand and sial, this 20th day of March,
“ Jacob Tonson.
“ Sealed and delivered, being first stampt,
" Ben. Portlock.
« March 24th, 1698, “ Received then of Mr. Jacob Tonson the “ sum of two hundred fixty-eight pounds fif“ teen shillings, in pursuance of an agreement “ for ten thousand verses, to be delivered by « me to the said Jacob Tonson, whereof I “ have already delivered to him about seven “ thousand five hundred, more or less; he “ the said Jacob Tonson being obliged to “ make up the foresaid sum of two hundred “ fixty-eight pounds fifteen shillings three “ hundred pounds, at the beginning of the “ second impression of the foresaid ten thou" sand verses ; “ I say, received by me
“ John Dryden. “ Witness Charles Dryden.”
Two hundred and fifty guineas, at 1l. 15. 6d. is 2681. 155.
It is manifest from the date of this contract, that it relates to the volume of Fables, which contains about twelve thousand verses, and for which therefore the payment mult have been afterwards enlarged.
I have been told of another letter yet remaining, in which he desires Tonson to bring him money, to pay for a watch which he had ordered for his son, and which the maker would not leave without the price.
The inevitable consequence of poverty is dependence. Dryden had probably no re