1779 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Rymer

Samuel Johnson, in "Life of Dryden," Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 1:413.



It was said of a dispute between two mathematicians, "malim cum Scaligero errare, quam cum Clavio recte sapere;" that "it was more eligible to go wrong with one than right with the other." A tendency of the same kind every mind must feel at the perusal of Dryden's prefaces and Rymer's discourses. With Dryden we are wandering in quest of Truth, whom we find, if we find her at all, drest in the graces of elegance; and if we miss her, the labour of the pursuit rewards itself: we are led only through fragrance and flowers. Rymer, without taking a nearer, takes a rougher way; every step is to be made through thorns and brambles, and Truth, if we meet her, appears repulisive by her mien and ungraceful by her habit. Dryden's criticism has the majesty of a queen; Rymers has the ferocity of a tyrant.