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The State of Innocence and Fall of Man is termed by him an opera : it is rather a tragedy in heroick rhyme, but of which the personages are such as cannot doo
Prentices, fops, and their footmen admire him,
Thanks patron, painter, and montieur Grabras
Finds that his loss is infallibly true ;
Curse poet, painter, and monsieur Grabu.
And the machines were well written we knew;
And little better is monsieur Grabu.
Hoping that rainbows and peacocks would do;
A plague upon himn and monsieur Grabu.
Though all without thee would make a man spet;
Spite of Jack Laureat and monsieur Grabu.
Though thy dull ear be to,musick untrue;
Prithee learn thrashing of monsieur Grahu.
Striving to make thy dull bauble look fair;
Still most commending the worst of their ware.
Till thou hast ears and canít alter thy ítrain ;
And still remember the breathing the vein.
Print thy dull notes, but be thrifty and wise;
cently be exhibited on the stage. Some such production was foreseen by Marvel, who writes thus to Milton :
Or if a work so infinite be spann'd,
To change in scenes, and show 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 addreffed 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 felf-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 be
Instead of angels fubfcrib'd for the volume *,
Take a round shilling, and thank my advice.
Gleaning from laureats is no shame at all;
Elfe ten to one but the prices will fall. * The Music to Albion and Albanius was publifhed by y subscription of ten thillings for each copy. 6
" came at length a libel against me.” These copies as they gathered faults were apparently manuscript ; 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 needs not seek an apology in falsehood; but he that could bear to write the dedication felt no pain in writing the preface.
Aureng Zebe 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 the remoteness of place is remarked by Racine, to afford the fame 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 drainas. 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 fo obscure, that he seems afraid left his plan should be purloined, as, he says, happened to him when he told it more plainly in his preface to Juvenal. “ The design," VOL. II.
says he, “
you know is great, the story English, and “ neither too near the present times, nor too distanț
All for Love, or the World well loft, a tragedy founded upon the story of Antony and Cleopatra, he tells us, is the only play which he wrote for himself; the rest were given to the people. It is by universal consent accounted the work in which he has admitted the feweft improprieties of style or character ; but it has one fault equal to many, though rather moral than critical, that by admitting the romantick omnipotence of Love, he has recommended as laudable and worthy of imitation that conduct which, through all ages, the good have ccnsured as vicious, and the bad despised as foolish.
Of this play the prologue and the epilogue, though written upon the common topicks of malicious and ignorant criticism, and without any particular relation to the characters or incidents of the drama, are deservedly celebrated for their elegance and spriteliness.
Limberham, or the kind Keeper, is a comedy, which, after the third night, was prohibited as too indecent for the stage. What gave offence, was in the printing, as the author fays, altered or omitted. Dryden confeffes that its indecency was objected to; but Langbaine, who yet feldom favours him, imputes its expulsion to resentment, because it so much exposed the keeping part of the town.
Oedipus is a tragedy formed by Dryden and Lee, in conjunction, from the works of Sophocles, Seneca, and Corneille. Dryden planned the scenes, and composed the first and third acts.
Don Sebastian is commonly esteemed either the first or second of his dramatick performances. It is too long to be all acted, and has many characters and many
Incidents ; and though it is not without fallies of frantick dignity, and more noise than meaning, yet as it makes approaches to the possibilities of real life, and has some sentiments which leave a strong impression, it continued long to attract attention. Amidst the distresses of princes, and the vicissitudes of empire, are inserted several scenes which the writer intended for comick; but which, I suppose, that age did not much cominend, and this would not endure. There are, however, passages of excellence universally acknowledged; the dispute and the reconciliation of Dorax and Sebastián has always been admired.
This play was first acted in 1690, after Dryden had for some years discontinued dramatick poetry.
Amphitryon is a comedy derived from Plautus and Moliere. The dedication is dated Oct. 1690. This play seeins to have succeeded at its first appearance ; and was, I think, long considered as a very diverting entertainment.
Cleomenes is a tragedy, only remarkable as it occafioned an incident related in the Guardian, and allufively mentioned by Dryden in his preface. As he came out from the representation, he was accosted thus by fome airy stripling : Had I been left alone with a young beauty, I would not have spent my time like your Spartan, That, Sir, said Dryden, perhaps is true; but give me leave to tell you, that you are no hero.
King Arthur is another opera. It was the last work that Dryden performed for King Charles, who did not live to see it exhibited ; and it does not seem to have been ever brought upon the stage *. In the dedication to the marquis of Halifax, there is a very elegant cha
* This is a mistake. It was set to music by Purcell, and well reccived, and is yet a favourite entertaininent.