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"This Almanzor speaks of himself; and sure for "one man to conquer an army within the city, and "another without the city, at once, is something "difficult: but this flight is pardonable to some we "meet with in Granada: Osmin, speaking of Almanzor,
"Who, like a tempest that outrides the wind, Made a just battle, ere the bodies join'd.
"Pray, what does this honourable person mean by a "tempest that outrides the wind? a tempest that outrides itself. To suppose a tempest without wind, "is as bad as supposing a man to walk without feet; "for if he supposes the tempest to be something "distinct from the wind, yet, as being the effect of wind only, to come before the cause is a little preposterous; so that, if he takes it one way, or "if he takes it the other, those two ifs will scarce make one possibility" .^Enough of Settle.
Marriage a-la-mode (1673) is a comedy dedicated to the Earl of Rochester; whom he acknowledges / not only as the defender of his poetry, but the promoter of his fortune. Langbaine places this play in 1673. The Earl of Rochester, therefore, was the famous Wilmot, whom yet tradition always represents as an enemy to Dryden, and who is mentioned by him with some disrespect in the preface to Juvenal.
The Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery, a comedy (1673), was driven off the stage, against the opinion, as the author says, of the best judges. It is dedicated, in a very elegant address, to Sir Charles Sedley; in which he finds an opportunity for his usual complaint of hard treatment and unreasonable censure.
Amboyna is a tissue of mingled dialogue in verse and prose, and was perhaps written in less time than The Virgin Martyr; though the author thought not fit either ostentatiously or mournfully to tell how little labour it cost him, or at how short a warning he produced it. It was a temporary performance, written in the time of the Dutch war, to inflame the nation against their enemies; to whom he hopes, as he declares in his Epilogue, to make his poetry not less destructive than that by which Tyrtaeus of old animated the Spartans. This play was written in the second Dutch war, in 1673.
Troilus and Cressida (1679) is a play altered from Shakspeare; but so altered, that, even in Langbaine's opinion, "the last scene in the third act is a masterpiece." It is introduced by a discourse on "the Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy," to which I suspect that Rymer's book had given occasion.
The Spanish Fryar (1681) is a tragi-comedy, eminent for the happy coincidence and coalition of the two plots. As it was written against the Papists, it would naturally at that time have friends and enemies; and partly by the popularity which it obtained at first, and partly by the real power both of the serious and risible part, it continued long a favourite of the publick.
It was Dryden's opinion, at least for some time, and he maintains it in the dedication of this play, that the drama required an alternation of comick and tragick scenes; and that it is necessary to mitigate by alleviations of merriment the pressure of ponderous events, and the fatigue of toilsome passions. "Whoever," says he, " cannot perform both parts, is but half a writer for the stage. and he lived in an age very unlike ours, if many hundred copies of fourteen hundred lines were likely to be transcribed. An author has a right to print his own works, and need not seek an apology in falsehood; but he that could bear to write the dedication felt no pain in writing the preface.
The Duke of Guise, a tragedy (1683), written in conjunction with Lee, as Oedipus had been before, seems to deserve notice only for the offence which it gave to the remnant of the Covenanters, and in general to the enemies of the court, who attacked him with great violence, and were answered by him; though at last he seems to withdraw from the conflict, by transferring the greater part of the blame or merit to his partner. It happened that a contract had been made between them, by which they were to join in writing a play; and " he happened," says Dry den, " to claim the promise just upon the finishing of a poem, when I would have been glad of a little respite.— ZW-thirds of it belonged to him; and to me only the first scene of the play, the whole fourth act, and the first half, or somewhat more, of the fifth."
This was a play written professedly for the party of the Duke of York, whose succession was then opposed. A parallel is intended between the Leaguers of France and the Covenanters of England: and this intention produced the controversy.
Albion and Albanius (1685) is a musical drama or opera, written, like " The Duke of Guise," against the Republicans. With what success it was performed, I have not found.*
* Downes says, it was performed on a very unlucky day, viz. that on which the Duke of Monmouth landed in the West; and he intimates, that the consternation into which the kingdom was thrown by this event was a reason why it was performed but six times, and was hi general ill received. fl.
The State of Innocence and Fall of Man (1675) is termed by him an opera: it is rather a tragedy in heroick rhyme, but of which the personages are such as cannot decently be exhibited on the stage. Some such production was foreseen by Marvel, who writes thus to Milton:
"Or if a work so infinite be spamVd,
Jealous I was lest some less skilful hand
(Such as disquiet always what is well,
And by ill-imitating would excel,)
Might hence presume the whole creation's day
To change in scenes, and shew it in a play."
It is another of his hasty productions; for the heat of his imagination raised it in a month.
This composition is addressed to the Princess of Modena, then Dutchess of York, in a strain of flattery which disgraces genius, and which it was wonderful that any man that knew the meaning of his own words, could use without self-detestation. It is an attempt to mingle Earth and Heaven, by praising human excellence in the language of religion.
The preface contains an apology for heroick verse and poetick licence; by which is meant not any liberty taken in contracting or extending words, but the use of bold fictions and ambitious figures.
The reason which he gives for printing what was never acted, cannot be overpassed: "I was induced to it in my own defence, many hundred copies of it being dispersed abroad without my knowledge or consent, and every one gathering new faults, it became at length a libel against me." These copies, as they gathered faults, were apparently manuscript;
Aureng Zebe (1676) is a tragedy founded on the actions of a great prince then reigning, but over nations not likely to employ their criticks upon the transactions of the English stage. If he had known and disliked his own character, our trade was not in those times secure from his resentment. His country is at such a distance, that the manners might be safely falsified, and the incidents feigned; for remoteness of place is remarked, by Racine, to afford the same conveniencies to a poet as length of time.
This play is written in rhyme; and has the appearance of being the most elaborate of all the dramas. The personages are imperial; but the dialogue is often domestick, and therefore susceptible of sentiments accommodated to familiar incidents. The complaint of life is celebrated; and there are many other passages that may be read with pleasure.
This play is addressed to the Earl of Mulgrave, afterwards Duke of Buckingham, himself, if not a poet, yet a writer of verses, and a critick. In this address Dryden gave the first hints of his intention to write an epick poem. He mentions his design in terms so obscure, that he seems afraid lest his plan should be purloined, as, he says, happened to him when he told it more plainly in his preface to Juve