1695
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Observations on the Art of Painting.

De Arte Graphica. The Art of Painting, by C. A. Du Fresnoy. With Remarks. Translated into English, together with an original Preface containing a Parallel betwixt Painting and Poetry. By Mr. Dryden.

John Dryden


Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene appears in John Dryden's long and promiscuous catalogue of books useful to painters — though, as the former Historiographer Royal admonishes his readers, there is a danger to working from romances which "almost always corrupt the truth of History."

Samuel Johnson: "In 1694 he began the most laborious and difficult of all his works, the translation of Virgil; from which he borrowed two months, that he might turn Fresnoy's Art of Painting into English prose. The preface, which he boasts to have written in twelve mornings, exhibits a parallel of poetry and painting, with a miscellaneous collection of critical remarks, such as cost a mind stored like his no labour to produce them" "Life of Dryden" in Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 386-87.

Edmond Malone: "Dryden, in this translation, which was published in June, 1695 (see London Gazette, No. 3094,) having been led into some errors by De Piles, who states in his Preface that his French version was made at the author's request, and revised by him, they were corrected in the second edition in 1716, by Mr. Jervas, with the assistance, it is supposed, of his friend and scholar, Pope. The late Mr. Mason, in 1782, published a poetical translation of the same piece, which is now incorporated in the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, with very valuable annotations by that great painter" Critical and Miscellaneous Prose Works of John Dryden (1800) 1:1:252.

Walter Scott: "The prose of Dryden may rank with the best in the English language. It is not less of his own formation than his versification, is equally spirited and equally harmonious. Without the lengthened and pedantic sentences of Clarendon, it is dignified where dignity is becoming, and is lively without the accumulation of strained and absurd allusions and metaphors, which were unfortunately mistaken for wit by many of the author's contemporaries" Life of Dryden (1808) in Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism (1901-05) 2:492.




Trajan's Pillar, with the discourse which explains the Figures on it, and instructs a Painter in those things with which he is undispensibly to be acquainted. This is one of the most principal and most learned Books, which we have for the Modes, the Customs, the Arms, and the Religion of the Romans. Julio Romano made his chief studies on the Marble it self.

The Books of Medals.

The Bass-Reliefs of Perrier and others, with their Explanations at the bottom of the Pages, which give a perfect understanding of them.

Horace's Art of Poetry, by the Earl of Roscommon, because of the relation which there is betwixt the Rules of Poetry and those of Painting.

And other Books of the like Nature, the reading of which are profitable to warm the imagination: such as in English, are Spencer's Fairy Queen; The Paradise lost of Milton; Tasso translated by Fairfax; and the History of Polybius, by Sir Henry Shere.

Some Romances also are very capable of entertaining the Genius, and of strengthening it by the noble Ideas which they give of things; but there is this danger in them, that they almost always corrupt the truth of History.


[pp. 108-09]