A Person whose Writings have made him remarkable to all sorts of Men, as being for a long time much read, and in great Vogue. It is no wonder that the Characters given of him, by such as are, or would be thought Wits, are various; since even those, who are generally allow'd to be such, are not yet agreed in their Verdicts. And as their Judgments are different, as to his Writings; so are their Censures no less repugnant to the Managery of his Life, some excusing what these condemn, and some exploding what those commend. So that we can scarce find them agreed in any One thing, save this, That he was Poet Laureat and Historiographer to His late Majesty. For this, and other Reasons, I shall wave all Particularities of his Life; and let pass the Historiographer, that I may keep the closer to the Poet, toward whom I shall use my accustom'd Freedome; and having spoken my Sentiments of his Predecessors Writings, shall venture without partiality, to exercise my slender Judgment in giving a Censure of his Works.
Mr. Dryden is the most Voluminous Dramatick Writer of our Age, he having already extant above Twenty Plays of his own writing, as the Title-page of each would perswade the World; tho' some people have been so bold as to call the Truth of this in question, and to propogate in the world another Opinion.
His Genius seems to me to incline to Tragedy and Satyr, rather than Comedy: and methinks he writes much better in Heroicks, than in blank Verse. His very Enemies must grant that there his Numbers are sweet, and flowing; that he has with success practic'd the new way of Versifying introduc'd by his Predecessor Mr. Waller, and follow'd since with success, by Sr. John Denham, and others. But for Comedy, he is for the most part beholding to French Romances and Plays, not only for his Plots, but even a great part of his Language: tho' at the same time, he has the confidence to prevaricate, if not flatly deny the Accusation, and equivocally to vindicate himself; as in the Preface to the Mock Astrologer: where he mentions Thomas Corneille's le Feint Astrologue becaus'd 'twas translated, and the Theft prov'd upon him; but never says One word of Molliere's Depit amoreux, from whence the greatest part of †Wild-blood and Jacinta, (which he owns are the chiefest parts of the Play) are stollen. I cannot pass by his Vanity in saying, "That those who have called Virgil, Terence and Tasso, Plagiaries (tho' they much injur'd them) had yet a better Colour for their Accusation:" nor his Confidence in sheltring himself under the protection of their great Names, by affirming, "That he is able to say the same for his Play, that he urges for their Poems; viz. That the Body of his Play is his own, and so are all the Ornaments of Language, and Elocution in them." I appeal only to those who are vers'd in the French Tongue, and will take the pains to compare this Comedy with the French Plays above-mention'd; if this be not somewhat more than Mental Reservation, or to use one of his own Expressions, "A Sophisticated Truth, with an allay of Lye in't."
Nor are his Characters less borrow'd in his Tragedies, and the serious parts of his Tragi-Comedies; as I shall observe in the sequel. It shall suffice me at present, to shew how Magisterially he huffs at, and domineers over, the French in his Preface to the Conquest of Granada. "I shall never (says he) subject my Characters to the French Standard; where Love and Honour are to be weigh'd by Drams and and Scruples: yet, where I have design'd the patterns of exact Virtue, such as in this Play are the Parts of Almahide, of Ozmyn, and Benzaida, I may safely challenge the best of theirs." Now the Reader is desir'd to observe that all the Characters of that Play are stollen from the French: so that Mr. Dryden took a secure way to Conquest, for having robb'd them of their Weapons, he might safely challenge them and beat them too, especially having gotten Ponce de Leon on his side, in disguise, and under the Title of Almanzor: and should Monsieur de Voiture presume to lay claim to his own Song L'Amour sous sa Loy &c. which Mr. Dryden has robb'd him of, and plac'd in the Play of Sr. Martin Marr-all, (being that Song which begins Blind Love to this Hour &c.) our Poet would go nigh to beat him with a Staff of his own Rimes, with as much ease, as Sr. Martin defeated the Bailiffs in rescue of his Rival.
But had he only extended his Conquests over the French Poets, I had not medled in this Affair, and he might have taken part with Achilles, and Rinaldo, against Cyrus, and Oroondates, without my engaging in this Forreign War: but when I found him flusht with his Victory over the great Scudery, and with Almanzor's assistance triumphing over the noble Kingdome of Granada; and not content with Conquests abroad, like another Julius Caesar, turning his Arms upon his own Country; and as if the proscription of his Contemporaries Reputation, were not sufficient to satiate his implacable thirst after Fame, endeavouring to demolish the Statues and Monuments of his Ancestors, the Works of those his Illustrious Predecessors, Shakespear, Fletcher, and Johnson: I was resolv'd to endeavour the rescue and preservation of those excellent Trophies of Wit, by raising the Posse-comitatus upon this Poetick Almanzor, to put a stop to his Spoils upon his own Country-men. Therefore I present my self a Champion in the Dead Poets Cause, to vindicate their Fame, with the same Courage, tho' I hope different Integrity than Almanzor engag'd in defence of Queen Almahide, when he bravely Swore like a Hero, that his Cause was right, and She was innocent; tho' just before the Combat, when alone, he own'd he knew her false:
I have out-fac'd my self, and justify'd
What I knew false to all the World beside.
She was as Faithless as her Sex could be;
And now I am alone, she's so to me.
But to wave this digression, and proceed to the Vindication of the Ancients; which that I may the better perform, for the Readers Diversion, and that Mr. Dryden may not tell me, that what I have said, is but "gratis dictum," I shall set down the Heads of his Depositions against our ancient English Poets, and then endeavour the Defence of those great Men, who certainly deserv'd much better of Posterity, than to be so disrespectively treated as he has used them.
Mr. Shakespear as first in Seniority I think ought to lead the Van, and therefore I shall give you his Account of him as follows: "Shakespear who many times has written better than any Poet in any Language, is yet so far from writing Wit always, or expressing that Wit according to the dignity of the Subject, that he writes in many places below — the dullest Writers of ours, or any precedent Age. He is the very Janus of Poets; he wears almost every where two Faces: and you have scarce begun to admire the One, e're you despise the other." Speaking of Mr. Shakespear's Plots, he says they were lame, "and that many of them were made up of some ridiculous, incoherent Story, which in one Play, many times took up the business of an Age. I suppose (says he) I need not name Pericles Prince of Tyre, nor the Historical Plays of Shakespear; Besides many of the rest, as the Winters Tale, Love's Labour lost, Measure for Measure, which were either grounded on Impossibilities, or at least so meanly written, that the Comedy neither caused your Mirth, nor the serious part your Concernment." He says further, "Most of Shakespear's Plays, I mean the Stories of them, are to be found in the Heccatomouthi, or Hundred Novels of Cinthio. I have my self read in his Italian, that of Romeo and Juliet; The Moor of Venice, and many others of them."
He Characterises Mr. Fletcher, who writ after Mr. Shakespear, "As a Person that neither understood correct Plotting, nor that which they call The Decorum of the Stage:" of which he gives several Instances out of Philaster, Humourous Lieutenant, and Faithful Shepherdess; which are too long to be here inserted. In another place he speaks of Fletcher thus; "Neither is the Luxuriance of Fletcher a less fault than the Carelesness of Shakespear. He does not well always, and when he does, he is a true English-man; he knows not when to give over. If he wakes in one Scene, he commonly slumbers in another: and if he pleases you in the first three Acts, he is frequently so tired with his Labour, that he goes heavily in the Fourth, and sinks under his Burthen in the Fifth." Speaking of his Plots, he says, "Beaumont and Fletcher had most of theirs from Spanish Novels: witness The Chances, The Spanish Curate, Rule a Wife and have a Wife, The little French Lawyer, and so many others of them as compose the greatest part of their Volume in Folio."
As to the great Ben Johnson he deals not much better with him, though he would be thought to admire him; and if he praise him in one Page, he wipes it out in another: thus tho he calls him "The most Judicious of Poets, and Inimitable Writer," yet, he says, "his Excellency lay in the low Characters of Vice, and Folly. When at any time (says he) Ben aim'd at Wit in the stricter sence, that is sharpness of Conceit, he was forc'd to borrow from the Ancients, (as to my Knowledge he did very much from Plautus:) or when he trusted himself alone, often fell into meanness of expression. Nay he was not free from the lowest and most groveling Kind of Wit, which we call Clenches; of which Every Man in his Humour is infinitely full, and which is worse, the wittiest Persons in the Dramma speak them."
These are his own Words, and his Judgment of these three Great Men in particular, now take his Opinion of them all in general, which is as follows; "But Malice and Partiality set apart, let any Man, who understands English, read diligently the Works of Shakespear and Fletcher; and I dare undertake that he will find in every Page, either some Solecisme in Speech, or some notorious flaw in Sence." In the next Page; speaking of their Sence and Language, he says, "I dare almost challenge any Man to shew me a Page together which is correct in both. As for Ben Johnson I am loath to name him, because he is a most judicious Author, yet he often falls into these Errors." Speaking of their Wit, he gives it this Character, "I have always acknowledg'd the Wit of our Predecessors, with all the Veneration that becomes me; but I am sure, their Wit was not that of Gentlemen; there was ever somewhat that was Ill-bred and Clownish in it: and which confest the Conversation of the Authors." Speaking of the advantage which acrues to our Writing, from Conversation, he says, "In the Age wherein those Poets liv'd, there was less of Gallantry, than in ours; neither did they keep the best Company of theirs. Their Fortune has been much like that of Epicurus, in the Retirement of his Gardens: to live almost unknown, and to be Celebrated after their Decease. I cannot find that any of them were Conversant in Courts, except Ben Johnson: and his Genius lay not so much that way, as to make an Improvement by it." He gives this Character of their Audiences; "They knew no better, and therefore were satisfied with what they brought. Those who call theirs The Golden Age of Poetry, have only this Reason for it, that they were then content with Acorns, before they knew the use of Bread; or that [Greek characters] was become a Proverb."
These are Errors which Mr. Dryden has found out in the most Correct Dramatick Poets of the last Age, and says in defence of our present Writers, That if they reach not some Excellencies of Ben Johnson, yet at least they are above that Meanness of Thought which he has tax'd, and which is so frequent in him.
After this he falls upon the Gentlemen of the last Age in a Character, which (as Bayes says) is sheer point and Satyr throughout; for after having Droll'd upon them, calling them Old Fellows, Grave Gentlemen, &c. he summes up his Evidence, and sings an Io Triumphe; ascribing his Victory to the Gallantry and Civility of this Age, and to his own Knowledge of the Customs and Manners of it.
I must do Mr. Dryden this justice, to acquaint the World, that here, and there in this Postscript, he intersperses some faint Praises of these Authors; and beggs the Reader's Pardon for accusing them, "Desiring him to consider that he lives in Age where his least faults are severely censur'd, and that he has no way left to extenuate his failings, but by shewing as great in those whom he admires."
Whether this be a sufficient Excuse or no, I leave to the Criticks: but sure I am that this procedure seems exactly agreeable to the Character which an ingenious Person draws of a Malignant Wit, "Who conscious of his own Vices, and studious to conceal them, endeavours by Detraction to make it appear that others also of greater Estimation in the world, are tainted with the same or greater: as Infamous Women generally excuse their personal Debaucheries, by incriminating upon their whole Sex, callumniating the most Chast and Virtuous, to palliate their own dishonour."
But 'tis not the Poets only that Mr. Dryden attacks, for had I time, I could easily prove he has Almanzor-like fell foul upon almost all Religions, Parties, and Orders of Mankind; so that whilst he was Apollo's Substitute, he has play'd as odd Tricks, and been as Mad as his own Wild-Bull which he turn'd loose in Sierra Ronda;
Whilst Monarch-like he rang'd the listed Field,
Some toss'd, some gor'd, some trampling down he kill'd.
And as if by being Laureat, he were as Infallible as St. Peter's Successor; and had as large a Despotick Power as Pope Stephanus the Sixth to damn his Predecessors; he has assaulted with all the Bitterness imaginable not only the Church of England, but also ridicul'd the several Professions of the Lutherans, Calvinists, Socinians, Presbyterians, Hugonots, Anabaptists, Independents, Quakers, &c. tho' I must observe by the way, that some people among the Perswasions here mention'd might justly have expected better usage from him on Account of old Acquaintance in the Year 1659. But this being at present Foreign to my Subject, I shall not after an Act of Oblivion revive forgotten Crimes, but go on with the Thing I have undertook, (to wit) The Defence of the Poets of the last Age.
Were Mr. Dryden really as great a Scholar, as he would have the World believe him to be; he would have call'd to mind, that Homer, whom he professeth to imitate, had set him a better pattern of Gratitude, who mentions with Respect and Kindness his Master Phemis, Mentor of Ithaca, and even Tychius, the honest Leather-dresser. Had he follow'd Virgil, whom he would be thought to esteem; instead of Reproaches, he had heap'd Panegyricks, on the Ashes of his Illustrious Predecessors: and rather than have tax'd them with their Errors in such a rude manner, would have endeavour'd to fix them in the Temple of Fame, as he did Musaeus, and the Ancient Poets, in Elisium, amongst the Magnanimous Heroes, and Teucer's Off-spring; stiling them,
—Pii Vates, & Phoebo digna locuti.
Had he observ'd Ovid's Elegy ad Invidos he might have found that good humour'd Gentleman, not only commending his Predecessors, but even his Cotemporaries. But it seems he has follow'd Horace, whom he boasts to have studied, and whom he has imitated in his greatest Weakness, I mean his Ingratitude: if at least that excellent Wit could be guilty of a Crime, so much below his Breeding; for the very suspicion of which, Scaliger (who like Mr. Dryden seldome spares any man,) has term'd him Barbarous. "Ingratus Horatius, atque animo barbaro atque servili; qui ne a Mecenate quidem abstinere potuit: siquidem quod aiunt, verum est, Malthinum ab eo appellatum, cujus demissas notaret tunicas." Mr. Dryden having imitated the same Fact, certainly he deserves the same punishment: and if we may not with Scaliger call him Barbarous, yet all ingenious Men, that know how he has dealt with Shakespear, will count him ungrateful; who by furbishing up an Old Play, witness The Tempest, and Troilus and Cressida, has got more on the third Day, than its probable, ever Horace receiv'd from his Patron for any One Poem in all his Life. The like Debt he stands engag'd for to the French for several of the Plays, he has publisht; which if they exceed Mr. Shakespear in Oeconomy, and Contrivance, 'tis that Mr. Dryden's Plays owe their Advantage to his skill in the French Tongue, or to the Age, rather than his own Conduct, or Performances.
Honest Shakespear was not in those days acquainted with those great Wits, Scudery, Calpranede, Scarron, Corneille, &c. He was as much a Stranger to French as Latine, (in which, if we believe Ben Johnson, he was a very small Proficient;) and yet an humble Story of Dorastus and Fawnia, serv'd him for A Winter's Tale, as well as The Grand Cyrus, or The Captive Queen, could furnish out a Laureat for a Conquest of Granada. Shakespear's Measure for Measure, however despis'd by Mr. Dryden with his Much Ado about Nothing, were believ'd by Sr. William Davenant, (who I presume had as much judgment as Sir Positive At-all) to have Wit enough in them to make one good Play.
To conclude, if Mr. Shakespear's Plots are more irregular than those of Mr. Dryden's (which by some will not be allow'd) 'tis because he never read Aristotle, or Rapin; and I think Tasso's Arguments to Apollo in defence of his Gierusalemme Liberata may be pleaded in our Author's behalf. "Che solo havea ubbidito al talento, che gli havea dato la Natura, & al inspiratione della sua serenissima Calliope; che per cio li pareva di compitamente haver sodisfatto a gli obblighi tutti della Poetica, nella quale sua Maesta non havendo prescritto legge alcuna, non sapea veder con qual autorita Aristotile havesse publicato le Regole di essa: e ch' egli non mai havendo udito dire, che in Parnasso si desse altro Signore, che sua Maesta, e le sue Serenissime Dive, il suo Peccato di non havere ubbidito a' commandamenti d' Aristotile era proceduto da mera ignoranza, non da malitia alcuna." The Sence of which is thus; That he had only observ'd the Talent which Nature had given him, and which his Calliope had inspired into him: Wherein he thought he had fulfill'd all the duties of Poetry, and that his Majesty having prescrib'd no Laws thereunto, he knew not with what Authority Aristotle had published any Rules to be observed in it: and that he never having heard that there was any other Lord in Parnassus but his Majesty, his fault in not having observ'd Aristotle's Rules, was, an Error of Ignorance, and not of any Malice."
As to Mr. Fletcher, should we grant that he understood not the Decorum of the Stage, as Mr. Dryden, and Mr. Flecknoe before him in his Discourse on the English Stage, observe; his Errors on that account, are more pardonable than those of the former, who pretends so well to know it, and yet has offended against some of its most obvious and established Rules. Witness Porphirius his attempt to kill the Emperor whose Subject he was, and who offer'd to adopt him his Son, and give him his Daughter in Marriage. Philocles joining with Prince Lisimantes in taking the Queen Prisoner, who rais'd him to be her chief Favourite. If to wound a Woman be an Indecency and contrary to the Character of Manhood, of which he accuses Philaster, and Perigot: than Mr. Dryden has equally offended with Mr. Fletcher, since he makes Abdelmelech kill Lyndaraxa. If it be contrary to the Decorum of the Stage for Demetrius and Leontius to stay in the midst of a routed Army, to hear the cold Mirth of The Humourous Lieutenant 'tis certainly no less, to stay the Queen and her Court, to hear the cold Mirth of Celadon and Florimel about their Marriage Covenants, whilst the main Action is depending. If Mr. Fletcher be tax'd by Mr. Dryden for introducing Demetrius with a Pistol in his Hand (in the Humourous Lieutenant) in the next Age to Alexander the Great: I think Mr. Dryden committed as great a Blunder in his Zambra Dance, where he brought in the Mahometans bowing to the Image of Jupiter. I could give you several other Instances, but these are enough to shew, that Mr. Dryden is no more Infallible than his Predecessors.
As to his failing in the two last Acts, (a fault Cicero sometimes alludes to, and blames in an Idle Poet;) its more to be imputed to his Laziness, than his want of Judgment. I have either read, or been inform'd, (I know not well whether) that 'twas generally Mr. Fletcher's practice, after he had finish'd Three Acts of a Play to shew them to the Actors, and when they had agreed on Terms, he huddled up the two last without that care that behoov'd him; which gave opportunity to such Friends as Mr. Dryden to traduce him. This, tho' no just excuse, yet I believe was known to Mr. Dryden before, and therefore ought not as an act of Ignorance, to have been urg'd so fiercely against him.
As to his Plots being borrow'd, 'tis what is allowed by Scaliger, and others; and what has been practic'd by Mr. Dryden, more than by any Poet that I know: so that He of all Men living had no Reason to throw the first Stone at him. But Mr. Dryden is of the nature of those Satyrists describ'd by Scaliger; "Commune est omnibus profiteri sese omnium pene hostem; paucissimorum parcissimum laudatorem: Se quoque vulnerare ut alios interficere liceat; nam ne amicis quidem parcunt."
To come lastly to Ben Johnson, who (as Mr. Dryden affirms,) has borrow'd more from the Ancients than any: I crave leave to say in his behalf, that our late Laureat has far out-done him in Thefts, proportionable to his Writings: and therefore he is guilty of the highest Arrogance, to accuse another of a Crime, for which he is most of all men liable to be arraign'd. "Quis tulerit Gracchos de seditione querenteis?"
I must further alledge that Mr. Johnson in borrowing from the Ancients, has only follow'd the Pattern of the great Men of former Ages, Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Horace, Plautus, Terence, Seneca, &c. all which have imitated the Example of the industrious Bee, which sucks Honey from all sorts of Flowers, and lays it up in a general Repository. 'Twould be "actum agere" to repeat what is known to all Learned Men; that there was an Illiad written before that of Homer, which Aristotle mentions; and from which, (by Suidas, Aelian, and others,) Homer is supposed to have borrow'd his Design. Virgil copied from Hesiod, Homer, Pisander, Euripides, Theocritus, Aratus, Ennius, Pacuvius, Lucretius, and others; as may be seen in Macrobius, and Fulvio Ursini, which last Author has writ a particular Treatise of his Thefts. Notwithstanding he accounted it no Diminution to his Worth, but rather gloried in his Imitation: for when some snarling Criticks had accus'd him for having borrow'd his Design from Homer, he reply'd; 'Tis the Act of an Hero, to wrest Hercules's Club out of his Hand. Besides he not only acknowledges in particular his making use of Hesiod, "Ascraeumque cano Romana per oppida carmen:" But extreamly glories in his being the first Latine Poet that had treated on Country Affairs:
—Juvat ire jugis, qua nulla priorum
Castaliam molli diducitur orbita clivo.
Ovid not only took the Design of his Metamorphosis, from the foremention'd Parthenius: but even Horace himself notwithstanding his Hypercritical Sentence against such as undertook that Province, and did not well acquit themselves, stiling them.
—Imitatorum stultum pecus,—
Yet, I say, He himself not only imitated Lucilius in his Satyrs, and followed Aristotle in his Epistle De Arte Poetica: but also translated Verbatim those Fragments of the Greeks, which in some Editions are to be found at the End of Pindar's Works, and inserted them in his first Book of Odes, as might be easily made appear, were it not too long a Discursion.
For this Reason I shall only speak succinctly of the Latine Dramatick Poets, most of which were Imitators at least, if not wholly beholding to the Greek Poets for their Productions. Thus Seneca in his Tragedies imitated Euripides, and Aeschylus; Terence borrow'd from Menander, and in his Prologue to Andria, quotes Naevius, Plautus, and Ennius for his Authority. I could enumerate more Instances, but these are sufficient Precedents to excuse Mr. Johnson.
Permit me to say farther in his behalf, That if in imitation of these illustrious Examples, and Models of Antiquity, he has borrow'd from them, as they from each other; yet that he attempted, and as some think, happily succeeded in his Endeavours of Surpassing them: insomuch that a certain Person of Quality [author's note: Poems and Essays, by Mr. Edw. Howard, p. 24] makes a Question, "Whether any of the Wit of the Latine Poets be more Terse and Eloquent in their Tongue, than this Great and Learned Poet appears in ours."
Whether Mr. Dryden, who has likewise succeeded to admiration in this way, or Mr. Johnson have most improv'd, and best advanc'd what they have borrow'd from the Ancients, I shall leave to the decision of the abler Criticks: only this I must say, in behalf of the later, that he has no ways endeavour'd to conceal what he has borrow'd, as the former has generally done. Nay, in his Play call'd Sejanus he has printed in the Margent throughout, the places from whence he borrow'd: the same he has practic'd in several of his Masques, (as the Reader may find in his Works;) a Pattern, which Mr. Dryden would have done well to have copied, and had thereby sav'd me the trouble of the following Annotations.
There is this difference between the Proceedings of these Poets, that Mr. Johnson has by Mr. Dryden's Confession Design'd his Plots himself; whereas I know not any One Play, whose Plot may be said to be the Product of Mr. Dryden's own Brain. When Mr. Johnson borrow'd, 'twas from the Treasury of the Ancients, which is so far from any diminution of his Worth, that I think it is to his Honor; it least-wise I am sure he is justified by his Son Carthwright, in the following Lines:
What tho' thy searching Muse did rake the dust
Of Time, and purge old Mettals from their Rust?
Is it no Labour, no Art, think they, to
Snatch Shipwracks from the Deep, as Divers do?
And rescue Jewels from the covetous Sand,
Making the Seas hid Wealth adorn the Land?
What tho' thy culling Muse did rob the store
Of Greek and Latine Gardens, to bring o're
Plants to thy Native Soil? their Virtue were
Improv'd far more, by being planted here:
If thy Still to their Essence doth refine
So many Drugs, is not the Water thine?
Thefts thus become just Works; they and their Grace
Are wholly thine; thus doth the Stamp and Face
Make that the King's that's ravish'd from the Mine;
In others then 'tis Oar, in thee 'tis Coin.
On the contrary, tho' Mr. Dryden has likewise borrow'd from the Greek and Latine Poets, as Sophocles, Virgil, Horace, Seneca, &c. which I purposely omit to tax him with, as thinking what he has taken to be lawful prize: yet I cannot but observe withal; that he has plunder'd the chief Italian, Spanish, and French Wits for Forage, notwithstanding his pretended contempt of them: and not only so, but even his own Countrymen have been forc'd to pay him tribute, or to say better, have not been exempt from being Pillag'd. This I shall sufficiently make out in the Examen of his Plays; in the mean time, give me leave to say a word, or two, in Defence of Mr. Johnson's way of Wit, which Mr. Dryden calls Clenches.
There have been few great Poets which have not propos'd some Eminent Author for their Pattern, (Examples of this would be needless and endless.) Mr. Johnson propos'd Plautus for his Model, and not only borrow'd from him, but imitated his way of Wit in English. There are none who have read him, but are acquainted with his way of playing with Words: I will give one Example for all, which the Reader may find in the very entrance of his Works; I mean the Prologue to Amphitruo.
Justam rem & facilem oratum a vobis volo:
Nam juste ab justis justus sum Orator datus.
Nam injusta ab justis impetrare non decet:
Justa autem ab injustis petere insipientia 'st.
Nor might this be the sole Reason for Mr. Johnson's Imitation, for possibly 'twas his Compliance with the Age that induc'd him to this way of writing, it being then as Mr. Dryden observes the Mode of Wit, the Vice of the Age, and not Ben Johnson's: and besides Mr. Dryden's taxing Sir Philip Sidney for playing with his Words, I may add that I find it practis'd by several Dramatick Poets, who were Mr. Johnson's Cotemporaries: and notwithstanding the advantage which this Age claims over the last, we find Mr. Dryden himself as well as Mr. Johnson, not only given to Clinches; but sometimes a Carwichet, a Quarter-quibble, or a bare Pun serves his turn, as well as his Friend Bur in his Wild Gallant; and therefore he might have spar'd this Reflection, if he had given himself the liberty of Thinking.
As to his Reflections on this Triumvirate in general: I might easily prove, that his Improprieties in Grammar, are equal to theirs: and that He himself has been guilty of Solecisms in Speech, and Flaws in Sence, as well as Shakespear, Fletcher, and Johnson: but this would be to wast Paper and Time: and besides, I consider that Apollos Laws like those of our own Nation, allow no Man to be try'd twice for the same Crime: and Mr. Dryden having already been arraign'd before the Wits upon the Evidence of the Rota, and found Guilty by Mr. Clifford the Foreman of the Jury: I shall suppress my further Evidence, till I am serv'd with a Subpaena, by him, to appear before that Court, or have an Action clapp'd upon me by his Proctor, as guilty of a "Scandalum Archi-Poetae;" and then I shall readily give in my Depositions.
For these, and the like Reasons, I shall at present pass by his dis-obliging Reflections on several of his Patrons, as well as the Poets his Cotemporaries: his little Arts to set up himself, and decry others; his dexterity in altering other Mens Thoughts, so as to make them pass for his own; his Tautologies; his Petty-Larcenies, which notwithstanding his stiling of himself Saturnine, shew him sufficiently Mercurial, at least, if Plagiaries may be accounted under the Government of that Planet. In fine, (if Old Moody will allow me to borrow that word) he resembles Vulgar Painters, who can tolerably copy after a good Original, but either have not judgment, or will not take the pains themselves to design any thing of value. This will easily appear in the following Account of his Plays, of which I come now to speak. Viz.
Albion and Albanius, an Opera perform'd at the Queen's Theatre in Dorset-Garden, and printed in Folio, Lond. 1685. "The Subject of it (as the Author says) is wholly Allegorical; and the Allegory it self so very obvious, that it will no sooner be read, than understood." I need not therefore take the pains to acquaint my Reader, that by the Man on the Pedestal, who is drawn with a long, lean, pale Face, with Fiends Wings, and Snakes twisted round his Body: and incompast by several Phanatical Rebellious Heads, who suck Poyson from him, which runs out of a Tap in his Side, is meant the late Lord Shaftsbury, and his Adherents. I shall not pretend to pass my censure whether he deserv'd this usage from our Author, or no; but leave it to the judgments of Statesmen and Polititians. How well our Author has drawn his other Characters, I shall leave to the decision of the Criticks: as also whether Monsieur Grabut, or our Poet deserves the preference; or either of them merit those Applauses which Mr. Dryden in both their Names challenges as their due; since I find an Author of a different Opinion, who thus describes them.
Grabut his Yoke-mate ne're shall be forgot,
Whom th' God of Tunes upon a Muse begot.
Bays on a double score to him belongs:
As well for writing as for setting Songs.
For some have sworn, (th' Intrigue so od is laid)
That Bayes and He mistook each others Trade
Grabut the Lines, and He the Musick made.
All for Love, or The World well Lost; a Tragedy acted at the Theatre Royal; and written in imitation of Shakespear's stile, printed in quarto Lond. 1678. and dedicated to the Right Honourable Thomas Earl of Danby. That our Author has nearly imitated Shakespear is evident by the following Instance. In the Comedy call'd Much Ado about Nothing the Bastard accuses Hero of Disloyalty before the Prince, and Claudio her Lover: who (as surpris'd at the News,) asks, "Who! Hero? Bast. Even she, Leonato's Hero, your Hero, every Mans Hero." In this Play, on the like occasion, where Ventidius accuses Cleopatra, Antony says, "Not Cleopatra! Ven. Even she my Lord! Ant. My Cleopatra? Ven. Your Cleopatra; Dollabella's Cleopatra: Every Mans Cleopatra." "Ex homine hunc natum dicas." Our Author with justice prefers the Scene betwixt Antonius and Ventidius in the first Act, to any thing he has written in that kind: but as to his defence of the Scene between Octavia and Cleopatra, in the end of the third Act, there are some Criticks who are not yet satisfied, that it is agreeable to the Rules of Decency and Decorum, to make Persons of their Character demean themselves contrary to the Modesty of their Sex. For the Plot see Plutarch in Vit. M. Ant. Suetonius in Aug. Dion Cassius, Lib. 48. 51. Orosius, Lib. 6. Cap. 7. Florus, L. 4. C. 11. Appian de Bellis Civilibus, L.5.
Amboyna, a Tragedy acted at the Theatre Royal; printed in quarto Lond. 1673. and dedicated to the Right Honourable the Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. The Plot of this Play is founded chiefly on History, being an Account of the Cruelty of the Dutch to our Country-Men in Amboyna, An.Dom. 1618. There was a Book publisht by the East-India Company, which I never saw, but I have read a Relation extracted from thence by Mr. Purchas, and printed in his Pilgrimage, Vol. II. L. 10. Ch. 16. There are several other Authors that have mention'd this Story, as Sanderson's History of King James, pag. 577. Stubb's Relation of the Dutch Cruelties to the English at Amboyna, printed in quarto Lond. 1632. Wanley's History of Man, Lib. 4. Ch. 10. Ex. 1. The Plot of the Rape of Isabinda, by Harman Junior, is founded on a Novel in Cynthio Gyraldi, Deca 5. Nov. 10.
Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery, a Comedy acted at the Theatre Royal, printed in quarto Lond. 1678. and dedicated to his most Honour'd Friend Sir Charles Sidley Baronet. This Play was Damn'd on the Stage, or as the Author phrases it, "it succeeded-ill in the Representation." I shall not pretend to determine, any more than the Author, "Whether the fault was in the Play it self, or in the lameness of the Action, or in the number of its Enemies, who came resolv'd to damn it for the Title:" but this I know, that his Reflections on Mr. Ravencrofts Play, call'd Mamamouchi, provok'd him to a retort in another Prologue to a new Play of his acted the Vacation following, part of which as relating to this Play, I shall transcribe.
An Author did to please you, let his Wit run
Of late, much on a Serving-man, and Cittern,
And yet you would not like the Serenade,
Nay, and you damn'd his Nuns in Masquerade.
You did his Spanish Sing-song too abhor,
"Ah! que locura con tanto rigor."
In fine, the whole by you so much was blam'd,
To act their parts the Players were asham'd;
Ah! how severe your Malice was that Day;
To damn at once the Poet and his Play.
But why, was your Rage just at that time shown,
When what the Poet writ, was all his own?
Till then he borrow'd from Romance, and did translate,
And those Plays found a more indulgent Fate.
But in this Mr. Ravencroft is very much deceiv'd, for most of the Characters, as well as the Incidents are borrow'd from French Romances; as for instance, The Characters of the Duke of Mantua, Prince Frederick and Lucretia, are borrow'd from The Annals of Love, 8vo in the Story of Constance the fair Nun, pag. 81. but as to the Scene of the Petticoat and Belly Ake so much commended by Mr. Bayes, I believe 'twas Mr. Dryden's own Contrivance. The Characters of Aurelian, Camillo, Laura, and Violetta, are taken from Scarron's Comical Romance, in the History of Destiny and Madam Star. See Ch. 13. pag. 43. The Humour of Benito's affecting Musick, to the prejudice of his Carcass, is borrow'd from Quinault's Character of Jodolet, in the begining of his La Comedie, sans Comedie. The passage of Frontona's throwing water upon Laura and Violetta is taken from Les Contes de M. de la Fontaine. premiere partie, Nov. 11. p. 74. There are other French Authors that have handled the same Story, as Les Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles. La Damoiselle ‡ Coeur ouvert &c.
Aureng-zebe, a Tragedy acted at the Theatre Royal, printed in quarto Lond. 1676. and dedicated to the Right Honourable John Earl of Mulgrave. The Plot of this Play is related at large in Tavernier's Voyages into the Indies. Vol. I. Part 2. Ch. 2. Our Author is not wholy free from Thefts in this Play, and those who have ever read Seneca's Hippolitus, will allow that Aureng-zebe has some resemblance with his Character, and that Nourmahal, is in part copied from Phaedra, which will the better appear, if the Reader will compare the following Lines.
—Thesei vultus amo
Illos priores, quos tulit quondam puer;
Cum prima puras barba signaret genas,
I am not chang'd, I love my Husband still;
But Love him as he was when youthful Grace
And the first bloom began to shade his Face.
—Magne regnator Deum,
Tam lentus audis scelera? tam lentus vides?
Ecquando Saeva fulmen emittes manu,
Si nunc serenum est?
—Me velox cremet
Transactus ignis. Sum nocens; merui mori;
Heavens can you this without just vengeance hear,
When will you Thunder, if it now be clear!
Yet Her alone let not your Thunder seize:
I too deserve to dye, because I please.
I could cite other passages in this Play borrow'd from Seneca, but this is enough to convict our Author of borrowing from the Latine Poets, now give me leave to give you one Instance likewise of his borrowing from Mr. Milton's Sampson Agonistes.
I see thou art implacable, more deaf
To Prayers than winds and seas, yet winds to seas
Are reconcil'd at length, and sea to shore:
Thy anger unappeasable still rages,
Eternal Tempest never to be calm'd.
Unmov'd she stood and deaf to all my prayers,
As Seas and Winds to sinking Mariners;
But Seas grow Calm, and Winds are reconcil'd:
Her Tyrant Beauty never grows more mild.
There are many other Hints from this Poem, that are inserted in this Play by Mr. Dryden, and which I should not have laid to his Charge had he not accus'd Ben Johnson of the same Crime.
Conquest of Granada, by the Spaniards, in two Parts, acted at the Theatre-Royal, printed in quarto Lond. 1678. and dedicated to his Royal Highness the Duke. These Plays I have seen acted with great Applause, which so pufft up our Author with vanity, that he could not refrain from abusing his Predecessors, not only in the Postscript already mention'd; but even in a detracting Epilogue to the second Part, which I shall leave to the Readers perusal. I have already hinted, that not only the Episodes, and main Plot, but even the Characters are all borrow'd from French and Spanish Romances, as Almahide, Grand Cyrus, Ibrahim, and Gusinan: so that Mr. Dryden may be said to have made a Rod for himself, in the following Lines;
And may those drudges of the Stage, whose Fate
Is damn'd dull Farce more dully to Translate,
Fall under that Excise the State thinks fit
To set on all French Wares, whose worst is Wit.
French Farce worn out at home, is sent abroad;
And patcht up here is made our English Mode.
How much Mr. Dryden has borrow'd from the French in this Play, cannot be comprehended in the compass to which I confine my self; and therefore I shall only mention some of the most remarkable Passages which are stollen. I am therefore in the first place to begin with the Persons represented: The Character of Almanzor is chiefly taken from Ponce de Leon in Almahide; from Ozmin in Gusman, and Artaban in Cleopatra. His other Characters of Boabdelin, Almahide, Ferdinand and Isabella, Duke of Arcos, Ozmin, Hamet, Gomel, &c. are taken from Almahide. The Characters of Ozmin and Benzaida, are borrow'd from Ibrahim, in the Story of Ozmin and Alibech, and Lyndaraxa, are copied from Prince Ariantes, Agathirsis, and Elibesis; See Grand Cyrus, Part IX. Book I.
I am now to give some Instances that may make good my Assertion, That Mr. Dryden has borrow'd most of his Thoughts, as well as his Characters from those Authors abovemention'd, tho' he has new cloath'd them in Rime. In the beginning of the First Act, he has borrow'd the Description of his Bull-feast, from Guzman's Juego de Toros & Cannas: See the Story of Ozmin and Daraxa, part 1. pag. 82. and 85. The Description of the Factions pag. 4 is borrow'd from Almahide p. 1. The next four Lines spoken by the King is taken from Prince Mussa's advice in Almahide, p. 6. The King's Speech in going between the Factions, pag. 5. is borrow'd from Almhide, Part 3. Book 3. p. 63. The Description of the Quarrell between Tarifa and Ozmin, is founded on Abindarrays his Speech in Alm. p. 2. The Rise of the Families, p. 6. from the same. Almanzor's killing Gomel, from Alm. p. 64. His quelling the Factions, from Alm. p. 64, 65. In the second Act, Almanzor's Victory, and his taking the Duke of Arcos Prisoner, p, 12. is copied from Almahide, p. 65. The Scene between Abdalla and Lyndaraxa, p. 13. is stollen from Alm. p. 62. and from the Story of Elibesis in Cyrus, Part 9. Book 1. p. 20. Zulema's Plea for Abdalla's right to the Crown, p. 17. is copied from Alm. p. 62. His tempting him to Rebellion, from Cyrus in the place above-mention'd. In the Third Act, Almanzor's going over to Abdalla, on the Kings refusal to grant the Duke of Arcos his Liberty, pag. 18. is taken from Alm. p.55. &c. The Alarm after the Zambra Dance from the same page. The first meeting of Almanzor and Almahide, p. 27. from Alm. p. 69. Of Abdalla and Almanzor, p. 30. from Alm. p. 71. The Controversy between Almanzor and Zulema, p. 31. from the same Column. In the Fourth Act, Almanzor's going over to Boabdelin's Party, p. 34. is taken from Alm. p. 72. Abdelmelech his coming to visit Lyndaraxa in Disguise, p. 35. is stollen from the former Story of Elibesis in Cyrus, p. 25. &c. Abdalla visiting her, being Royally attended with Guards, p. 39. from the same, p. 67. Almanzor's freeing Almahide from Abdalla's Captivity, p. 45. is copied from Alm. p. 73. The beginning of the Fifth Act, viz. The Scene between Abdalla, and Lyndaraxa, under the Walls of the Albayzin, immediately after his Defeat, p. 48. is stollen from Cyrus in the Story aforesaid, p. 61. His flying to the Christians, p. 50. from Alm. p. 72. Ozmin and Benzaida's flight, p. 62. from Ibrahim, p. 8.
I might proceed through the Second Part, did I not fear the Reader to be already as tir'd as my self. I shall therefore only acquaint him, that most of that Play is borrow'd as well as the former: So that had our Author stollen from others, in none of his Labours, yet these Plays alone argue him guilty of the highest Confidence, that durst presume to arraign the Ancient English Poets as Plagiaries, in a Postscript to two Plays, whose Foundation and Language are in a great measure stollen from the Beginning to the End. I would therefore desire Mr. Dryden henceforth to ponder upon the following Epigram, which seems to give him better Advice.
Cum fueris Censor, primum te crimine purga,
Nec tua te damnent facta ne sanda reum.
Ne tua contemnas aliena negotia curans;
An tibi te quisquam junctior esse potest.
There are several Authors that have given an Account of this famous Action, as Mariana, L. 25. C. 18. Mayerne Turquet, L. 23. Thuanus, L. 48. Guicciardine, L. 12. Luc. Marinaeus Sic. L. 20. Car. Verardus. Domingo Baltanas, &c.
Don Sebastian, King of Portugal: a Tragedy acted at the Theatre-Royal, printed in quarto, Lond. 1690. and dedicated to the Right Honourable Philip Earl of Leicester. This Play is accounted by several One of the best of Mr. Dryden's, and was as I have heard acted with great Applause. The Foundation of it is built upon a French Novel call'd Don Sebastian, How far our Author has followed the French-man, I leave to the Readers of both to judge. Only give me leave to take notice of that passage in his Epistle to this Play, where he endeavours to clear himself from the charge of Plagiarie. He says, "The Ancients were never accus'd of being Plagiaries, for building their Tragedies on known Fables." To prove this assertion he brings several Instances; "Thus (says he) Augustus Caesar wrote an Ajax, which was not less his own because Euripides had written a Play before him on that Subject. Thus of late years Corneille writ an Oedipus after Sophocles; and I have design'd one after him, which I wrote with Mr. Lee, yet neither the French Poet stole from the Greek, nor we from the French-man. 'Tis the Contrivance, the new turn, and new Characters which alter the Property, and make it ours."
I have not that I know of, any where accus'd the Poets in general, or Mr. Dryden in particular, for borrowing their Plots; knowing that it is allow'd by Scaliger, M. Hedelin, and other Writers. 'Tis true I have shew'd whether they were founded on History, or Romance, and cited the Authors that treat on the Subject of each Dramma, that the Reader, by comparing them, might be able to judge the better of the Poets abilities, and his skill in Scenical Performances. But tho' the Poet be allow'd to borrow his Foundation from other Writers, I presume the Language ought to be his own; and when at any time we find a Poet translating whole Scenes from others Writings, I hope we may without offence call him a Plagiary: which if granted, I may accuse Mr. Dryden of Theft, notwithstanding this Defence, and inform the Reader, that he equivocates in this Instance of Oedipus: for tho' he stole not from Corneille in that Play, yet he has borrow'd very much from the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles, as likewise from that of Seneca.
For the Plot read the French Novel call'd Don Sebastian Roy de Portugal translated into English. Vasconcellos his Anacephalaeosis, sive Summa Capita Actorum Regum Lusitaniae, Anacaeph. 20. See besides other Writers of the Affairs of Portugal about 1578, in which year Sebastian was kill'd.
Duke of Guise, a Tragedy acted by Their Majesties Servants, written by Mr. Dryden, and Mr. Lee, printed in quarto Lond. 1683. and dedicated to the Right Honourable Laurence Earl of Rochester. This Play found several Enemies at its first appearance on the Stage: the Nation at that time being in a ferment about the Succession, which occasion'd several Pamphlets, pro and con, to be publisht. The main Plot is borrow'd from Davila, Mezeray, and other Writers of the Affairs of Charles the Ninth, as P. Mathieu, Memoires de Castelnau. See besides Thuanus, L. 93. The Story of Malicorn the Conjurer may be read in Rosset's Histoires Tragiques en la Vie de Canope, 8vo. p. 449.
Evening's Love, or The Mock Astrologer, a Comedy acted at the Theatre-Royal by His Majesties Servants, printed in quarto Lond. 1671. and dedicated to his Grace William Duke of Newcastle. This Play is in a manner wholly stollen from the French, being patcht up from Corneille's Le Feint Astrologue; Molliere's Depit amoreux, and his Les Precieuses Ridicules; and Quinault's L'Amant Indiscreet: not to mention little Hints borrow'd from Shakespear, Petronius Arbiter &c. The main Plot of this Play is built on that of Corneille's, or rather Calderon's Play call'd El Astrologo fingido, which Story is likewise copied by M. Scudery in his Romance call'd Ibrahim, or the Illustrious Bassa in the Story of the French Marquess. Aurelia's affectation in her Speech p. 31. is borrow'd from Molliere's Les Precieuses Ridicules. The Scene between Alonzo and Lopez p. 39. is translated from Molliere's Depit amoreux, Act 2.Sc.6. Camilla's begging a new Gown of Don Melchor p. 61. from the same. Act 1. Sc. 2. The Love Quarrel between Wild-blood and Jacinta; Mascal and Beatrix; Act 4. Sc. the last: is copied from the same Play, Act 4. Sc. 3, and 4. The Scene of †Wild-blood, Jacinta, &c. being discover'd by Aurelia's falling into Alonzo's Arms, p. 73. &c. is borrow'd from Quinault's L'Amant Indiscreet, Act 5. Sc. 4.
Kind Keeper, or Mr. Limberham, a Comedy acted at the Duke's Theatre, by his Royal Highness's Servants; printed in quarto Lond. 1680. and dedicated to the Right Honourable John Lord Vaughan. In this Play, (which I take to be the best Comedy of his) he so much expos'd the keeping part of the Town, that the Play was stopt, when it had but thrice appear'd on the Stage; but the Author took a becoming Care, that the things that offended on the Stage were either alter'd or omitted in the Press. One of our modern Writers in a short Satyr against Keeping, concludes thus;
Dryden good Man thought Keepers to reclaim,
Writ a Kind Satyr, call'd it Limberham.
This all the Herd of Letchers straight alarms,
From Charing-Cross to Bow was up in Arms;
They damn'd the Play all at one fatal Blow,
And broke the Glass that did their Picture show.
In this Play he is not exempt from borrowing some Incidents from French and Italian Novels: Mrs: Saintlys discovery of Love-all in the Chest, Act 1. is borrow'd from the Novels of Cynthio Gyraldi; see prima parte Deca 3. Nov. 3. The same Story is in The Fortunate Deceiv'd, and Unfortunate Lovers, see Nov. 7. Deceiv'd Lovers. Mrs. Brainsicks pricking and pinching him, Act 3. Sc. 2. is copied from the Triumph of Love over Fortune, a Novel writ by M. S. Bremond, or else from Zelotide of M. de Pais: but these are things not worthy to be urg'd against any One, but Mr. Dryden, whose Critical Pen spares no Man.
Indian Emperor, or The Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, being the Sequel of the Indian Queen, printed in quarto Lond. 1670. and dedicated to the Most Excellent and most Illustrious Princess Anne Dutchess of Monmouth and Bucclugh. This Play is writ in Heroick Verse, and has appear'd on the Stage with great Approbation, yet it is not wholly free from Plagiarie; but since they are only Hints, and much improv'd, I shall not mention the Particulars. 'Tis sufficient for me to observe in general that he has borrow'd from Plutarch, Seneca, Montagne, Fletcher, &c. Mr. Dryden in the Second Edition to this Play, prefixt a Piece intituled, A Defence of an Essay of Dramatick Poesy, being an Answer to the Preface of The Great Favourite, or The Duke of Lerma: but upon some considerations our Author was obliged to retract it. For the Plot of this Play 'tis founded chiefly on History. See Lopez de Gomara Hist. General de las Incas, & de Conquista de Mexico. De Bry Americae Pars 9. L. 7. Ogleby's America, Chap. 3. Sect. 10. Mariana de Reb. Hisp. L. 26. Cap. 3. Four Letters printed in several Languages.
Marriage A-la-mode, a Comedy acted at the Theatre-Royal by Their Majesties Servants; printed in quarto Lond. 1673. and dedicated to the Right Honourable the Earl of Rochester. This Play tho' stil'd in the Title-page a Comedy, is rather a Tragi-Comedy, and consists of two different Actions; the one Serious, the other Comick, both borrow'd from two Stories which the Author has tackt together. The Serious Part is founded on the Story of Sesostris and Timareta in the Grand Cyrus, Part 9. Book 3. and the Characters of Palamede and Rhodophil, from the same Romance, Par.6. Bk 1. See the History of Timantes and Parthenia. I might mention also the Story of Nogaret in The Annals of Love, from whence part of the Character of Doralice was possibly borrow'd: and Les Contes D'Ouville partie premiere p. 13. from whence the Fancy of Melantha's making Court to her self in Rhodophil's Name is taken; but this is usual with our Poet.
Mistaken Husband, a Comedy acted by His Majesties Servants at the Theatre-Royal, and printed in quarto Lond. 1675. This Play Mr. Dryden was not the Author of, tho 'twas adopted by him, as an Orphan, which might well deserve the Charity of a Scene which he bestowed on it. It is of the nature of Farce, or as the French term it "Basse Comedie," as Mr. Bentley the Bookseller has observ'd. 'Tis writ on the Model of Plautus's Maenechmi: and I have read a Story somewhat like it in L'Amant Oysif. Tome 2. p. 297. Nouvelle intitulee D. Martin.
Oedipus, a Tragedy acted at his Royal Highness the Duke's Theatre, written by Mr. Dryden and Mr. Lee, printed in quarto Lond. 1679. This Play is certainly one of the best Tragedies we have extant; the Authors having borrow'd many Ornaments not only from Sophocles, but also from Seneca; though in requital Mr. Dryden has been pleas'd to arraign the Memory, of the later by taxing him of "Running after Philosophical Notions more proper for the Study than the Stage." As for Corneille he has scouted him for failing in the Character of his Hero, which he calls an Error in the first Concoction: tho' possibly 'twas so in him to fall upon two such Great Men, without any provocation, and to whom he has been more than once oblig'd for beautiful Thoughts. As to the Plot 'tis founded on the Tragedies of Sophocles and Seneca.
Rival Ladies, a Tragi-Comedy, acted at the Theatre-Royal, printed in quarto Lond. 1679. and dedicated to the Right Honourable Roger Earl of Orrery. This Dedication is in the Nature of a Preface written in Defence of English Verse. The Authors Sentiments were afterwards controverted by Sr. Robert Howard, in the Preface to his Plays: to which Arguments Mr. Dryden reply'd, towards the end of his Dramatick Essay. Sr. Robert made a Rejoynder, when he publisht his Duke of Lerma: and Mr. Dryden answer'd him again in the Preface to his Indian Emperour, as I have already observ'd.
I beg leave of my Reader, to make one Remark on this Preface, to Rectify the following mistake committed by our Author. He says, "That The Tragedy of Queen Gorbuduc was written in English Verse; and consequently that Verse was not so much a new way amongst us, as an old way new reviv'd: and that this Play was written by the late Lord Buckhurst, afterwards Earl of Dorset."
Mr. Dryden, as well as Sr. Fopling, notwithstanding his smattering in the Mathematicks, is out in his Judgment at Tennis: for first (tho' His Majesties late Historiographer) he is mistaken in the Title-page: and I must crave leave to tell him by the by, that I never heard of any such Queen of Brittain, any more than he, of any King that was in Rhodes. Nay further had he consulted Milton's History of England, or any other Writers of Brute's History, nay, even the Argument of that very Play, he would have found Gorbuduc to have been the last King of that Race, at least the Father of Ferex and Porrex, in whom terminated the Line of Brute: and consequently would not have permitted so gross an Error to have escapt his Pen for Three Editions: tho' it may be Mr. Dryden's Printer was as much to blame to print Queen for King, as he ironically accuses Sr. Robert's for setting "shut" for "open." There are other Errata's in History, which I might impute at least to Mr. Dryden's Negligence; but I shall at present wave them. In the mean time I must acquaint the Reader, that however Mr. Dryden alledges that this Play was writ by the Lord Buckhurst, I can assure him that the three first Acts were writ by Mr. Thomas Norton: and that the Play it self was not written in Rime, but blank Verse, or if he will have it, in prose mesuree, so that Mr. Shakespear notwithstanding our Author's Allegation, was not the first beginner of that way of Writing.
As to his Oeconomy, and working up of his Play, our Author is not wholly free from Pillage, witness the last Act; where the Dispute between Amideo, and Hippolito; with Gonsalvo's fighting with the Pirates, is borrow'd from Petronius Arbyter, as the Reader may see by reading the Story of Encolpius, Giton, Eumolpus, and Tryphaena, aboard Licas's Vessel. To say nothing of the Resemblance of the Catastrophe with that of Scarron's Rival Brothers, Novel the Fifth.
Secret Love, or The Maiden Queen; a Tragi-Comedy acted by His Majesties Servants at the Theatre-Royal, printed in quarto Lond. 1679. I have already made some observation on this Preface, p. 143. and cannot pass by his making use of Bayes's Art of Transversing, as any One may observe by comparing the Fourth Stanza of his First Prologue, with the last Paragraph of the Preface to Ibrahim. As to the Contrivance of the Plot, the serious part of it is founded on the History of Cleobuline Queen of Corinth, Part 7. Book 2. The Characters of Celadon, Florimel, Olinda, and Sabina, are borrow'd from the Story of Pisistates and Cerintha in the Grand Cyrus, Part 9. Book 3. and from the Story of the French Marquess in Ibrahim, Part 2. Book 1.
Sir Martin Mar-all, or The Feign'd Innocence, a Comedy acted at His Highness the Duke of York's Theatre, printed in quarto Lond. 1678. This Play is generally ascrib'd to Mr. Dryden, tho' his Name be not affix'd to it. But in reality the Foundation of it is originally French: and whoever will compare it with M. Quinault's L'Amant Indiscret, and Molliere's L'Etourdy, ou le contre temps, will find not only the Plot, but a great part of the Language of Sr. Martin and his Man Warner borrow'd. There are several other Turns of the Plot copied from other Authors; as Warner's playing on the Lute instead of his Master, and his being surpriz'd by his Folly; See Francion written by M. Du Pare Lib. 7. Old Moody and Sr. John being hoisted up in their Altitudes, is taken (at least the hint of it) from Shakerly Marmion's Fine Companion, Act 4. Sc. 1. The Song of Blind Love to this Hour, (as I have already observ'd) is translated from a Song made by M. de Voiture: tho' I must do Mr. Dryden the Justice to acquaint the World, that he has kept to the Sense, and the same Measure of Verse.
Spanish Fryar, or The Double Discovery, a Tragi-Comedy acted at the Duke's Theatre; printed in quarto Lond. 1681. and dedicated to the Right Honourable John Lord Haughton. Whether Mr. Dryden intended his Character of Dominick as a Satyr on the Romish Priests only, or on the Clergy of all Opinions in general, I know not: but sure I am, that he might have spar'd his Reflecting Quotation in the Front of his Play:
Ut melius possis fallere sume togam.
But the truth is, ever since a certain Worthy Bishop refus'd Orders to a certain Poet, Mr. Dryden has declar'd open defiance against the whole Clergy; and since the Church began the War, he has thought it but Justice to make Reprisals on the Church. Mr. Dryden who is famous for collecting Observations, and Rules for Writing, has learnt this great Arcanum from his Brother Poet, the Tutor to Pacheco in the Comedy of the Reformation; "That this one piece of Art of Reflecting in all he writes, on Religion and the Clergy, has set off many an indifferent Play, by the titilation it affords the Gallants, who are sure to get those Verses all by heart, and fill their Letters with them to their Country Friends." But whatever success this way of Writing may find from the Sparks, it can never be approv'd on by sober Men: and there are none who have any sense of Religion themselves, that can without concern suffer it to be abus'd; and none but Apostates or Atheists will be so impudent to attempt it: and the real cause of their Envy and Malice is the same with that of the Emperor to his Son Aureng-zebe, which with Reference to the Clergy may be thus apply'd.
Our Clergy's sacred Virtues shine too bright,
They flash too fierce: their foes like birds of night,
Shut their dull Eyes, and sicken at the sight.
The Comical Parts of the Spanish Fryar, Lorenzo, and Elvira, are founded on Monsieur S. Bremond's Novel call'd the Pilgrim.
State of Innocence, or The Fall of Man, an Opera written in Heroick Verse, printed in quarto Lond. 1678. and dedicated to Her Royal Highness the Dutchess. Whether the Author has not been guilty of the highest Flattery in this Dedication, I leave to the Reader's Judgment; but I may presume to say, that there are some Expressions in it that seem strain'd, and a Note beyond Ela; as for Instance, "Your Person is so admirable that it can scarce receive addition, when it shall be glorified: and your Soul, which shines through it, finds it of a Substance so near her own, that she will be pleas'd to pass an Age within it, and to be confin'd to such a Pallace." This Dramma is commended by a Copy of Verses written by Mr. Lee; and the Author has prefixt an Apology for Heroick Poetry, and Poetick Licence. The foundation of this Opera is fetcht from Mr. Milton's Paradise Lost. How far our Author has transcrib'd him, I shall leave to the inquiry of the Curious, that will take the pains to compare the Copy with the Original.
Tempest, or The Inchanted Island, a Comedy acted at His Royal Highness the Duke of York's Theatre, and printed in quarto Lond. 1676. This Play is originally Shakespear's (being the first Play printed in the Folio Edition) and was revis'd by Sr. D'Avenant and Mr. Dryden. The Character of the Saylors were not only the Invention of the former, but for the most part of his Writing: as our Author ingeniously confesseth in his Preface. 'Tis likewise to his Praise, that he so much commends his deceas'd Predecessor. But as to his Reflections on Mr. Fletcher, and Sr. John Suckling for having copied, the One, his Sea Voyage, the other, his Goblins, from this Play; I believe were Mr. Dryden to be try'd by the same Standard, most of his Plays would appear Copies.
Troilus and Cressida, or Truth found out too late; a Tragedy acted at the Duke's Theatre, to which is prefixt a Preface containing the Grounds of Criticisme in Tragedy, printed in quarto Lond. 1679. and dedicated to the Right Honourable Thomas Earl of Sunderland. This Play was likewise first written by Shakespear, and revis'd by Mr. Dryden, to which he added several new Scenes, and even cultivated and improv'd what he borrow'd from the Original. The last Scene in the third Act is a Masterpiece, and whether it be copied from Shakespear, Fletcher, or Euripides, or all of them, I think it jnstly deserves Commendation. The Plot of this Play was taken by Mr. Shakespear from Chaucer's Troilus and Cressida; which was translated (according to Mr. Dryden) from the Original Story, written in Latine Verse, by One Lollius, a Lombard.
Tyranick Love, or The Royal Martyr, a Tragedy acted by His Majesties Servants at the Theatre-Royal, printed in quarto Lond. 1677. and dedicated to the Most Illustrious Prince James Duke of Monmouth and Bucclugh. This Tragedy is writ in Heroick Verse: and several Hints are borrow'd from other Authors, but much improv'd. Only I cannot but observe that whenever the Criticks pursue him, he withdraws for shelter under the Artillery of the Ancients; and thinks by the discharge of a Quotation from a Latine Author, to destroy their Criticisms. Thus in the Preface to his Play, he vindicates the following Line in his Prologue;
And he who servilely creeps after Sence
By that Quotation of Horace,
Serpit humi tutus.
So he justifies the following Line in the end of the Fourth Act:
With Empty Arms embrace you whilst you sleep,
From this Expression in Virgil,
—Vacuis amplectitur Ulnis.
I could cite you other passages out of his Conquest of Granada, Indian Emperor, State of Innocence, &c. but these are sufficient to shew, how much Self-justification is an Article of our Author's Creed. As to the Plot of this Tragedy 'tis founded on History: see Zosimus, L.4. Socrates, L.5. C.14. Herodiani Hist. L.7. and 8. Jul. Capitolinus, in Vit. Max. Jun.
Wild Gallant, a Comedy acted at the Theatre Royal by Their Majesties Servants, and printed in quarto Lond. 1669. This Play tho' the last mention'd, by reason of the Alphabetical Order throughout observ'd, was yet the first attempt which our Author made in Dramatick Poetry; and met with but indifferent Success in the Action. The Plot he confesses was not originally his own, but however having so much alter'd and beautified it, we will do him the Honour to call him the Author of the Wild Gallant, as he has done Sr. Robert Howard, the Author of the Duke of Lerma: and by way of Excuse I shall transcribe his own Lines in behalf of a New Brother of Parnassus.
'Tis Miracle to see a first good Play,
All Hawthorns do not bloom on Christmass-day;
A slender Poet must have time to grow,
And spread and burnish as his Brothers do.
Who still looks lean, sure with some Pox is curst;
But no Man can be Falstaff Fat at first.
I am next to give the Reader an Account of his other Writings and Transactions, as far as they are come to my Knowledge, and I shall begin with those in Verse, because nearer ally'd to my present Subject. There are several pieces of this Nature said to be writ by him; as Heroick Stanzas on the late Usurper Oliver Cromwel, written after his Funeral, and printed in quarto Lond. 1659. Annus Mirahilis, The Year of Wonders 1666. An Historical Poem describing the Dutch War, and the Fire of London, printed in octavo Lond. 1667. Absalom and Achitophel, printed in quarto Lond. 1682. This last, with several other of his Poems, as the Medal, Mack Flecknoe, &c. are printed in A Collection of Poems, in octavo Lond. 1684. Sylva, or a Second Volume of Poetical Miscellanies, in octavo Lond. 1685. Religio Laici, printed in quarto Lond. 1682. Threnodia Augustalis, or a Funeral-Pindarique Poem on King Charles the Second, printed in quarto Lond. 1685. Hind and Panther, in quarto Lond. 1687. Britannia Rediviva: a Poem on the Birth of the Prince, in Fol. Lond. 1688.
In Prose he has writ An Essay of Dramatick Poetry, in quarto Lond. 1668. Vindication of the Duke of Guise, in quarto Lond. 1683. The Life of Plutarch, in octavo Lond. 1683. And some Theological Pieces which I have not by me at present. He has translated The History of the League. The Life of St. Xavier, &c.
Now that Mr. Dryden may not think himself slighted in not having some Verses inserted in his Commendation; I will present the Reader with a Copy written by Mr. Flecknoe, and leave him to Judge of his Wit, and Mr. Dryden's Gratitude, by comparing the Epistle Dedicatory to his Kind Keeper, and his Satyr call'd Mack Flecknoe, with the following Epigram.
TO MR. JOHN DRYDEN.
Dryden, the Muses Darling and delight,
Than whom none ever flew so high a flight.
Some have their Vains so drossy, as from Earth,
Their Muses only seem to have ta'ne their Birth.
Other but Water-Poets are, have gone
No farther than to th' Fount of Helicon:
And they'r but airy Ones whose Muse soars up higher
No higher than to Mount Pernassus top;
Whilst thou with thine, dost seem to have mounted
Than he who fetcht from Heaven Celestial Fire:
And dost as far surpass all others, as
Fire does all other Elements surpass.