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for the stage, Dryden found room in the same space for many other undertakings.
But, how much soever he wrote, he was at least once suspected of writing more; for in 1679 a paper of verses, called an Elay on Satirè, was shewn about in manuscript, by which the earl of Rochester, the dutchess of Portsmouth, and others, were so much provoked, that, as was supposed, for the actors were never discovered, they procured Dryden, whom they suspected as the author, to be waylaid and beaten. This incident is mentioned by the duke of Buckinghamshire, the true writer, in his Art of Poetry; where he says of Dryden,
Though prais'd and beaten for another's rhymes,
His reputation in time was such, that his name was thought necessary to the success of every poetical or literary performance, and therefore he was engaged to contribute something, whatever it might be, to many publications. He prefixed the Life of Polybius to the translation of Sir Henry Sheers; and those of Lucian and Plutarch to versions of their works by different hands. Of the English Tacitus he translated the first book; and, if Gordon be credited, 'translated it from the French. Such a charge can hardly be mentioned without some degree of indignation; but it is not, I suppose, so much to be inferred, that Dryden wanted the literature necessary to the perusal of Tacitus, as that, considering himself as hidden in a crowd, he had no awe of the publick; and writing merely for money, was contented to get it by the nearest way.
In 1680, the Epistles of Ovid being translated by the poets of the time, among which one was the
work of Dryden, and another of Dryden and Lord Mulgrave, it was necessary to introduce them by a preface; and Dryden, who on such occasions was regularly summoned, prefixed a discourse upon translation, which was then struggling for the liberty that it now enjoys. Why it should find any difficulty in breaking the shackles of verbal interpretation, which must for ever debar it from elegance, it would be difficult to conjecture, were not the power
of prejudice every day observed. The authority of Jonson, Sandys, and Holiday, had fixed the judgement of the nation and it was not easily believed that a better way could be found than they had taken, though Fanshaw, Denham, Waller, and Cowley, had tried to give examples of a different practice.
In 1681, Dryden became yet more conspicuous by uniting politicks with poetry, in the memorable satire called Abfalom and Achitophel, written against the faction which, by Lord Shaftesbury's incitement, set the duke of Monmouth at its head.
Of this poem, in which personal satire was applied to the support of publick principles, and in which therefore every mind was interested, the reception was cager, and the sale so large, that my father, an old bookseller, told me, he had not known it equalled but by Sacbeverell's trial.
The reason of this general perusal Addison has attempted to derive froin the delight which the mind feels in the investigation of secrets; and thinks that curiosity to decypher the names procured readers to the poem. There is no need to enquire why thofe verses were read, which to all the attractions of wit, elegance, and harmony, added the co-operation of all
the factious paffions, and filled every mind with triumph or resentment,
It could not be supposed that all the provocation given by Dryden would be endured without resistance or reply. Both his person and his party were exposed in their turns to the shafts of satire, which, though neither so well pointed nor perhaps so well aimed, undoubtedly drew blood,
One of these poems is called Dryden's Satire on his Muse; ascribed, though, as Pope fays, falsely, to Somers, who was afterwards Chancellor. The poem, whose soever it was, has much virulence, and some spriteliness. The writer tells all the ill that he can collect both of Dryden and his friends.
The poem of Abfalom and Achitophel had two answers, now both forgotten; one called Azaria and Hushai; the other Absalom senior. Of these hostile compositions, Dryden apparently imputes Abfalom senior to Settle, by quoting in his verses against him the second line. Azaria and Husbai was, as Wood says, imputed to him, though it is somewhat unlikely that he should write twice on the same occasion. This is a difficulty which I cannot remove, for want of a minuter knowledge of poetical transactions.
The same year he published the Medal, of which the subject is a medal struck on lord Shaftesbury's escape from a prosecution, by the ignoramus of a grand jury of Londoners.
In both poems he maintains the same principles, and saw them both attacked by the fame antagonist. Elkanah Settle, who had answered Abfalom, appeared with equal courage in opposition to the Medal, and pub
lished an answer called The Medal reversed, with fo much success in both encounters, that he left the palm doubtful, and divided the suffrages of the nation. Such are the revolutions of fame, or such is the prevalence of fashion, that the man whose works have not yet been thought to deserve the care of collecting them; who died forgotten in an hospital; and whose latter years were spent in contriving shows for fairs, and carrying an elegy or epithalamium, of which the beginning and end were occasionally varied, but the intermediate parts were always the same, to every house where there was a funeral or a wedding ; might, with truth, have had inscribed upon his stone,
Here lies the Rival and Antagonist of Dryden. Settle was, for this rebellion, severely chastised by Dryden under the name of Doeg, in the second part of Absalom and Achitophel, and was perhaps for his factious audacity made the city poet, whose annual office was to describe the glories of the Mayor's day. Of these bards he was the last, and seems not much to have deserved even this degree of regard, if it was paid to his political opinions; for he afterwards wrote a-panegyrick on the virtues of judge Jefferies ; and what more could have been done by the meaneft zealot for prerogative?
· Of translated fragments, or occasional poems, to enumerate the titles, or fettle the dates, would be tedious, with little use. It may be observed, that as Dryden's genius was commonly excited by some personal regard, he rarely writes upon a general topick.
Soon after the accession of king James, when the design of reconciling the nation to the church of Rome became apparent, and the religion of the court gave the only elficacious title to its favours, Dryden declared himself a convert to popery. This at any
other time might have passed with little censure. Sir Kenelm Digby embraced popery; the two Rainolds recie: procally converted one another *; and Chillingworth himself was a while so entangled in the wilds of controversy, as to retire for quiet to an infallible church. If men of argument and study can find such difficulties, or such motives, as may either unite them to the: church of Rome, or detain them in uncertainty, there can be no wonder that a man, who perhaps never enquired why he was a protestant, should by an artful and experienced disputant be made a papist, overborn by the sudden violence of new and unexpected arguments, or deceived by a representation which shews only the doubts on one part, and only the evidence on the other.
That conversion will always be suspected that apparently concurs with interest. · He that never finds his error till it hinders his progress towards wealth or honour, will not be thought to love Truth only for herself. Yet it may easily happen that information may come at a commodious time; and as truth and interest are not by any fatal necessity at variance, that one may by accident introduce the other. When opinions are struggling into popularity, the argu . ments by which they are opposed or defended become more known; and he that changes his profession would perhaps have changed it before, with the like opportunities of instruction. This was the then state of popery; every artifice was used to Thew it in its fairest form; and it must be Owned to be a
* Dr. John Reynolds, who lived temp. Jac. I. was at first a zealous Papist, and his brother William as earnett a Protestant, but by mu. tual disputation each converted the other. Vide Fuller's Church History, book X. p. 47