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Thus I lost him who had been for so many years the he passed through eighteen years of great inequalichief guide of my whole life. · He had lived ten years ties ; unhappy in the war, in the loss of his father, in Sussex, in great privacy, dividing his time wholly and of the crown of England. Scotland did not only between study and retirement, and the doing of good ; receive him, though upon terms hard of digestion, but for in the parish where he lived, and in the parishes made an attempt upon England for him, though a round about, he was always employed in preaching, feeble one. He lost the battle of Worcester with too and in reading prayers. He distributed all he had much indifference. And then he showed more care in charities, choosing rather to have it go through of his person than became one who had so much at other people's hands than his own; for I was his stake. He wandered about England for ten weeks almoner in London. He had gathered a well-chosen after that, hiding from place to place. But, under library of curious as well as useful books, which he all the apprehensions he had then upon him, he showed left to the diocese of Dumblane for the use of the a temper so careless, and so much turned to levity, clergy there, that country being ill provided with that he was then diverting himself with little housebooks. He lamented oft to me the stupidity that he hold sports, in as unconcerned a manner as if he had observed among the commons of England, who seemed made no loss, and had been in no danger at all. He to be much more insensible in the matters of religion got at last out of England. But he had been obliged than the commons of Scotlund were. He retained to so many who had been faithful to him, and careful still a peculiar inclination to Scotland ; and if he of him, that he seemed afterwards to resolve to make had seen any prospect of doing good there, he would an equal return to them all ; and finding it not easy have gone and lived and died among them. In the to reward them all as they deserved, he forgot them short time that the affairs of Scotland were in the all alike. Most princes seem to have this pretty deep Duke of Monmouth's hands, that duke had been pos- in them, and to think that they ought never to resessed with such an opinion of him, that he moved member past services, but that their acceptance of the king to write to him, to go and at least live in them is a full reward. He, of all in our age, exerted Scotland, if he would not engage in a bishopric there. this piece of prerogative in the amplest manner; for But that fell with that duke's credit. He was in his he never seemed to charge his memory, or to trouble last years turned to a greater severity against popery his thoughts, with the sense of any of the services that than I had imagined a man of his temper and of his had been done him. While he was abroad at Paris, largeness in point of opinion was capable of. He Colen, or Brussels, he never seemed to lay anything spoke of the corruptions, of the secular spirit, and of to heart. He pursued all his diversions and irregular the cruelty that appeared in that church, with an pleasures in a free career, and seemed to be as serene extraordinary concern ; and lamented the shameful under the loss of a crown as the greatest philosopher advances that we seemed to be making towards popery. could have been. Nor did he willingly hearken to He did this with a tenderness and an edge that I did any of those projects with which he often complained not expect from so recluse and mortified a man. He that his chancellor persecuted him. That in which looked on the state the church of England was in he seemed most concerned was, to find money for supwith very melancholy reflections, and was very uneasy porting his expense. And it was often said, that if at an expression then much used, that it was the best Cromwell would have compounded the matter, and constituted church in the world. He thought it was have given him a good round pension, that he might truly so with relation to the doctrine, the worship, have been induced to resign his title to him. During and the main part of our government; but as to the his exile, he delivered himself so entirely to his pleaadministration, both with relation to the ecclesiasti-sures, that he became incapable of application. He cal courts and the pastoral care, he looked on it as spent little of his time in reading or study, and yet one of the most corrupt he had ever seen. He thought less in thinking. And in the state his affairs were we looked like a fair carcass of a body without a then in, he accustomed himself to say to every person, spirit, without that zeal, that strictness of life, and and upon all occasions, that which he thought would that laboriousness in the clergy, that became us. please most ; so that words or promises went very
There were two remarkable circumstances in his easily from him. And he had so ill an opinion of death. He used often to say, that if he were to choose mankind, that he thought the great art of living and a place to die in, it should be an inn; it looking like governing was, to manage all things and all persons a pilgrim's going home, to whom this world was all with a depth of craft and dissimulation. And in that as an inn. and who was weary of the noise and con- | few men in the world could put on the appearances fusion in it. He added, that the officious tenderness of sincerity better than he could ; under which so and care of friends was an entanglement to a dying much artifice was usually hid, that in conclusion he man: and that the unconcerned attendance of those could deceive none, for all were become mistrustful that could be procured in such a place would give of him. He had great vices, but scarce any virtues less disturbance. And he obtained what he desired, to correct them. He had in him some vices that were for he died at the Bell Inn in Warwick Lane. Another less hurtful, which corrected his more hurtful ones. circumstance was, that while he was bishop in Scot- He was, during the active part of life, given up to land, he took what his tenants were pleased to pay sloth and lewdness to such a degree, that he hated bim. So that there was a great arrear due, which was business, and could not bear the engaging in anything raised slowly by one whom he left in trust with his that gave him much trouble, or put him under any affairs there. And the last payment that he could constraint. And though he desired to become absoexpect from thence was returned up to him about six | lute, and to overturn both our religion and our laws, weeks before his death. So that his provision and yet he would neither run the risk, nor give himself journey failed both at once.
the trouble, which so great a design required. He had an appearance of gentleness in his outward de
portment; but he seemed to have no bowels nor [Character of Charles II.]
tenderness in his nature, and in the end of his life (From the same.)
he became cruel. He was apt to forgive all crimes,
even blood itself, yet he never forgave anything that Thus lived and died King Charles II. He was the was done against himself, after his first and general greatest instance in history of the various revolutions act of indemnity, which was to be reckoned as done of which any one man scemed capable. He was bred rather upon maxims of state than inclinations of up the first twelve years of his life with the splendour that became the heir of so great a crown. After that,
mercy. He delivered himself up to a most enormous tion of popery, make such a chain of black actions, course of vice, without any sort of restraint, even from flowing from blacker designs, that it amazed those the consideration of the nearest relations. The most who had known all this to see with what impudent studied extravagances that way seemed, to the very strains of flattery addresses were penned during his last, to be much delighted in and pursued by him. life, and yet more grossly after his death. His conHe had the art of making all people grow fond of him tributing so much to the raising the greatness of at first, by a softness in his whole way of conversation, France, chiefly at sea, was such an error, that it could as he was certainly the best-bred man of the age. not flow from want of thought, or of true sense. But when it appeared how little could be built on Ruvigny told me he desired that all the methods the his promise, they were cured of the fondness that he French took in the increase and conduct of their naval was apt to raise in them. When he saw young men force might be sent him ; and he said he seemed to of quality, who had something more than ordinary in study them with concern and zeal. He showed what them, he drew them about him, and set himself to errors they committed, and how they ought to be corcorrupt them both in religion and morality : in which rected, as if he had been a viceroy to France, rather he proved so unhappily successful, that he left Eng-than a king that ought to have watched orer and land much changed at his death from what he had prevented the progress they made, as the greatest of found it at his restoration. He loved to talk over all all the mischiefs that could happen to him or to his the stories of his life to every new man that came people. They that judged the most favourably of about him. His stay in Scotland, and the share he this, thought it was done out of revenge to the Dutch, had in the war of Paris, in carrying messages from that, with the assistance of so great a fleet as France the one side to the other, were his common topics. could join to his own, he might be able to destroy He went over these in a very graceful manner, but them. But others put a worse construction on it; so often and so copiously, that all those who had been and thought, that seeing he could not quite master long accustomed to them grew weary of them; and or deceive his subjects by his own strength and mawhen he entered on those stories, they usually with- nagement, he was willing to help forward the greatdrew. So that he often began them in a full audience, ness of the French at sea, that by their assistance he and before he had done, there were not above four or might more certainly subdue his own people; accordfive persons left about him, which drew a severe jest ing to what was generally believed to have fallen from from Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. He said he won-Lord Clifford, that if the king must be in a dependdered to see a man hare so good a memory as to re-ence, it was better to pay it to a great and generous peat the same story without losing the least circum- king, than to five hundred of his own insolent substance, and yet not remember that he had told it to jects. the same persons the very day before. This made No part of his character looked wickeder, as well him fond of strangers, for they hearkened to all his as meaner, than that he, all the while that he was often-repeated stories, and went away as in a rapture professing to be of the church of England, expressing at such an uncommon condescension in a king. both zeal and affection to it, was yet secretly recon
His person and temper, his vices as well as his for ciled to the church of Rome; thus mocking God, and tunes, resemble the character that we have given us deceiving the world with so gross a prevarication. of Tiberius so much, that it were easy to draw the And his not having the honesty or courage to own it parallel between them. Tiberius's banishment, and at the last ; his not showing any sign of the least rehis coming afterwards to reign, makes the comparison morse for his ill-led life, or any tenderness either for in that respect come pretty near. His bating of busi- his subjects in general, or for the queen and his serness, and his love of pleasures ; his raising of favourites, vants; and his recommending only his mistresses and and trusting them entirely; and his pulling them their children to his brother's care, would have been down, and hating them excessively ; his art of cover- a strange conclusion to any other's life, but was well ing deep designs, particularly of revenge, with an enough suited to all the other parts of his. appearance of softness, brings them so near a likeness, that I did not wonder much to observe the resem
(The Czar Peter in England in 1698.] blance of their faces and persons. At Rome, I saw one of the last statues made for Tiberius, after he had
[From the same.) lost his teeth. But, bating the alteration which that I mentioned, in the relation of the former year, the made, it was so like King Charles, that Prince Borg- Czar's coming out of his own country, on which I will hese and Signior Dominico, to whom it belonged, now enlarge. He came this winter over to England, did agree with me in thinking that it looked like a land stayed some months among us. I waited often statue made for him.
on him, and was ordered, both by the king and the Few things ever went near his heart. The Duke of archbishop and bishops, to attend upon him, and to Gloucester's death seemed to touch him much. But offer him such informations of our religion and conthose who knew him best, thought it was because he stitution as he was willing to receive. I had good inhad lost him by whom only he could have balanced terpreters, so I had much free discourse with him. the surviving brother, whom he hated, and yet em- | He is a man of a very hot ternper, soon inflamed, and broiled all his affairs to preserve the succession to very brutal in his passion. He raises his natural heat
by drinking much brandy, which he rectifies himself His ill conduct in the first Dutch war, and those with great application; he is subject to convulsive terrible calamities of the plague and fire of London, motions all over his body, and his head seems to be with that loss and reproach which he suffered by the affected with these ; he wants not capacity, and has a insult at Chatham, made all people conclude there larger measure of knowledge than might be expected was a curse upon his government. His throwing the from his education, which was very indifferent ; a want public hatred at that time upon Lord Clarendon was of judgment, with an instability of temper, appear both unjust and ungrateful. And when his people in him too often and too evidently ; he is mechanihad brought him out of all his difficulties upon his cally turned, and seems designed by nature rather to entering into the triple alliance, his selling that to be a ship-carpenter than a great prince. This was his France, and his entering on the second Dutch war chief study and exercise while he stayed here ; he with as little colour as he had for the first ; his wrought much with his own hands, and made all beginning it with the attempt or the Dutch Sinyrna about him work at the models of ships. He told me fleet, the shutting up the exchequer, and his declara- he designed a great fleet at Azuph, and with it to tion for toleration, which was a step for the introduc- I attack the Turkish empire ; but he did not seem cap
able of conducting so great a design, though his con- to the humours of his people, to make himself and duct in his wars since this has discovered a greater his notions more acceptable to them. This, in a genius in him than appeared at that time. He was government that has so much of freedom in it as desirous to understand our doctrine, but he did not ours, was more necessary than he was inclined to beseem disposed to mend matters in Moscovy. He was, lieve. His reservedness grew on him, so that it disindeed, resolved to encourage learning, and to polish gusted most of those who served him ; but he had his people by sending some of them to travel in other observed the errors of too much talking, more than countries, and to draw strangers to come and live those of too cold a silence. He did not like contraamong them. He seemed apprehensive still of his diction, nor to have his actions censured ; but he loved sister's intrigues. There was a mixture both of pas- to employ and favour those who had the arts of comsion and severity in his temper. He is resolute, but placence, yet he did not love flatterers. His genius understands little of war, and seemed not at all in- lay chiefly to war, in which his courage was more quisitive that way. After I had seen him often, and admired than his conduct. Great errors were often had conversed much with him, I could not but adore committed by bir ; but his heroical courage set things the depth of the providence of God, that had raised right, as it inflamed those who were about him. He up such a furious man to so absolute an authority was too lavish of money on some occasions, both in over so great a part of the world.
his buildings and to his favourites, but too sparing David, considering the great things God had made for in rewarding services, or in encouraging those who the use of man, broke out into the meditation, 'What brought intelligence. He was apt to take ill imis man that thou art so mindful of him? But here pressions of people, and these stuck long with him ; there is an occasion for reversing these words, since but he never carried them to indecent revenges. He man scems a very contemptible thing in the sight of gave too much way to his own humour, almost in everyGod, while such a person as the Czar has such multi-thing, not excepting that which related to his own tudes put, as it were, under his feet, exposed to his health. He knew all foreign affairs well, and underrestless jealousy and savage temper. He went from stood the state of every court in Europe very particuhence to the court of Vienna, where he purposed to larly. He instructed his own ministers himself, but he have stayed some time; but he was called home, did not apply enough to affairs at home. He tried how sooner than he bad intended, upon a discovery or a he could govern us, by balancing the two parties one suspicion of intrigues managed by his sister. The against another ; but he came at last to be persuaded strangers, to whom he trusted most, were so true to that the Tories were irreconcilable to him, and he him, that those designs were crushed before he came was resolved to try and trust them no more. He beback. But on this occasion he let loose his fury on lieved the truth of the Christian religion very firmly, all whom he suspected. Some hundreds of them and he expressed a horror at atheism and blasphemy; were hanged all round Moscow; and it was said that and though there was much of both in his court, yet he cut off many heads with his own hand. And so far it was always denied to him, and kept out of sight. was he from relenting, or showing any sort of tender- He was most exemplarily decent and devout in the ness, that he seemed delighted with it. How long public exercises of the worship of God ; only on he is to be the scourge of that nation, or of his neigh week-days he came too seldom to them. He was bours, God only knows. So extraordinary an incident an attentive hearer of sermons, and was constant in will, I hope, justify such a digression.
his private pravers, and in reading the Scriptures:
and when he spoke of religious matters, which he did [Character of William 111.)
not often, it was with a becoming gravity. He was
much possessed with the belief of absolute decrees. [From the same.]
He said to me he adhered to these, because he did Thus lived and died William III., King of Great not see how the belief of Providence could be mainBritain, and Prince of Orange. He had a thin and tained upon any other supposition. His indifference weak body, was brown-haired, and of a clear and deli- as to the forms of church-government, and his being cate constitution. He had a Roman eagle nose, bright zealous for toleration, together with his cold behaviour and sparkling eyes, a large front, and a countenance towards the clergy, gave them generally very ill imcomposed to gravity and authority. All his senses pressions of him. In his deportment towards all about were critical and exquisite. He was always asthma- him, he seemed to make little distinction between tical; and the dregs of the small-pox falling on his the good and the bad, and those who served well, or lungs, he had a constant deep cough. His behaviour those who served him ill. He loved the Dutch, and was solemn and serious, seldom cheerful, and but with was much beloved among them ; but the ill returns a few. Ile spoke little and very slowly, and most he met from the English nation, their jealousies of commonly with a disgusting dryness, which was his him, and their perverseness towards him, had too character at all times, except in a day of battle ; for much soured his mind, and had in a great measure then he was all fire, though without passion; he was alienated him from them; which he did not take care then everywhere, and looked to everything. He had no enough to conceal, though he saw the ill effects this great advantage from his education. De Witt's dis- had upon his business. He grew, in his last years, courses were of great use to him; and he, being appre too remiss and careless as to all affairs, till the hensive of the observation of those who were looking treacheries of France awakened him, and the dreadnarrowly into everything he said or did, had brought ful conjunction of the monarchies gave so loud an himself under a habitual caution, that he could never alarm to all Europe ; for a watching over that court, shake off ; though in another scene it proved as hurt- and a bestirring himself against their practices, was ful as it was then necessary to his affairs. He spoke the prevailing passion of his whole life. Few men Dutch, French, English, and German equally well ; had the art of concealing and governing passion more and he understood the Latin, Spanish, and Italian, than he had; yet few men had stronger passions, so that he was well fitted to command armies com- which were seldom felt but by inferior servants, to posed of several nations. He had a memory that whom he usually made such recompenses for any amazed all about him, for it never failed him. He sudden or indecent vents he inight give his anger, was an exact observer of men and things. His strength that they were glad at every time that it broke upon lay rather in a true discerning and a sound judgment, them. He was too easy to the faults of those about than in imagination or invention. His designs were him, when they did not lie in his own way, or cross always great and good. But it was thought he trusted any of his designs ; and he was so apt to think that too much to that, and that he did not descend enough | his ministers might grow insolent, if they should find that they had much credit with him, that he seemed among the specimens which can be furnished of to have made it a maxim to let them often feel how vigorous and genuine idiomatic English. In addition little power they had even in small matters. His to the qualities just enumerated, it possesses those of favourites had a more entire power, but he accustomed equability and freedom from mannerism. Speaking them only to inform him of things, but to be sparing of this attribute of Dryden's style, Dr Johnson in offering advice, except when it was asked. It was observes, "He who writes much, will not easily not easy to account for the reasons of the favour that escape a manner-such a recurrence of particular he showed, in the highest instances, to two persons modes as may be easily noted, Dryden is always beyond all others, the Earls of Portland and Albe- another and the same; he does not exhibit a second marle, they being in all respects men not only of time the same elegances in the same forı, nor different, but of opposite characters. Secrecy and appears to have any art other than that of expressing fidelity were the only qualities in which it could be with clearness what he thinks with vigour. His said that they did in any sort agree. I have now run style could not easily be imitated, either seriously or through the chief branches of his character. I had ludicrously; for, being always equable and always occasion to know him well, having observed him very varied, it has no prominent or discriminative characcarefully in a course of sixteen years. I had a large ters. The beauty who is totally free from dispromeasure of his favour, and a free access to him all the portion of parts and features, cannot be ridiculed by while, though not at all times to the same degree.
an overcharged resemblance.'* The freedom that I used with him was not always Dryden has left no extensive work in prose; the acceptable ; but he saw that I served him faithfully; pieces which he wrote were merely accompaniments 80, after some intervals of coldness, he always returned
to his poems and plays, and consist of prefaces, to & good measure of confidence in me. I was, in
dedications, and critical essays. His dedications are many great instances, much obliged by him; but that
noted for the fulsome and unprincipled flattery in was not my chief bias to him ; I considered him as a
which he seems to have thought himself authorised person raised up by God to resist the power of France,
ce, by his poverty to indulge. The critical essays, and the progress of tyranny and persecution. The
though written with more haste and carelessness series of the five Princes of Orange that was now ended
than would now be tolerated in similar producin him, was the noblest succession of heroes that we ;
|tions, embody many sound and vigorously-expressed find in any history. And the thirty years, from the
thoughts on subjects connected with polite liteyear 1672 to his death, in which he acted so great a
rature. Of his prefaces Dr Johnson remarks, They part, carry in them so many amazing steps of a glo
have not the formality of a settled style, in which rious and distinguishing Providence, that, in the words
the first half of the sentence betrays the other. The of David, he may be called “The man of God's right
clauses are never balanced, nor the periods modelled; hand, whom he made strong for himself.' After all the abatements that may be allowed for his errors and
every word seems to drop by chance, though it falls faults, he ought still to be reckoned among the greatest
into its proper place. Nothing is cold or languid; princes that our history, or indeed that any other,
the whole is airy, animated, and vigorous; what is can afford. He died in a critical time for his own
little is gay; what is great is splendid. He may glory, since he had formed a great alliance, and had
be thought to mention himself too frequently ; but
while he forces himself upon our esteem, we canprojected the whole scheme of the war; so that if it succeeds, a great part of the honour of it will be as
not refuse him to stand high in his own. Everycribed to him ; and if otherwise, it will be said he
thing is excused by the play of images and the was the soul of the alliance, that did both animate
sprightliness of expression. Though all is easy, and knit it together, and that it was natural for that nothing is feeble; though all seems careless, there is body to die and fall asunder, when he who gave it not
it nothing harsh; and though, since his earlier works, life was withdrawn. Upon his death, some moved | mo
moved more than a century has passed, they have nothing for a magnificent funeral; but it seemed not decent / yet uncouth or obsolete.' to run into unnecessary expense, when we were enter
According to the same critic, Dryden's Essay on ing on a war that must be maintained at a vast charge. Dramatic Poesy 'was the first regular and valuable So* a private funeral was resolved on. But for the treatise on the art of writing. He who, having honour of his memory, a noble monument and an formed his opinions in the present age of English equestrian statue were ordered. Some years must literature, turns back to peruse this dialogue, will show whether these things were really intended, or if
not perhaps find much increase of knowledge, or they were only spoke of to excuse the privacy of his
much novelty of instruction; but he is to remember funeral, which was scarce decent, so far was it from
that critical principles were then in the hands of a being magnificent.
few, who had gathered them partly from the ancients, and partly from the Italians and French. The
structure of dramatic poems was then not generally JOHN DRYDEN.
understood. Audiences applauded by instinct, and DRYDEN, who contributed more than any other poets, perhaps, often pleased by chance. English writer to improve the poetical diction of his A writer who obtains his full purpose, loses native tongue, performed also essential service of himself in his own lustre. Of an opinion which is no the same kind with respect to the quality of our longer doubted, the evidence ceases to be examined. prose. Throwing off, still more than Cowley had Of an art universally practised, the first teacher is lone, those inversions and other forms of Latin forgotten. Learning, once made popular, is no longer Idiom which abound in the pages of his most dis-learning; it has the appearance of something which tinguished predecessors, Dryden speaks in the lan- we have bestowed upon ourselves, as the dew appears guage of one addressing, in easy yet dignified con- to rise from the field which it refreshes. versational phraseology, an assemblage of polite and To judge rightly of an author, we must transport well-educated men. Strength, ease, copiousness, ourselves to his time, and examine what were the variety, and animation, are the predominant qualities wants of his cotemporaries, and what were his means of his style; but the haste with which he composed, of supplying them. That which was easy at one and his inherent dislike to the labour of correction, time was difficult at another. Dryden, at least, are sometimes betrayed by the negligence and rough | imported his science, and gave his country what it ness of his sentences. On the whole, however, to the prose of Dryden may be assigned the foremost place
* Johnson's Life of Dryden,
wanted before; or rather he imported only the say he ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not materials, and manufactured them by his own then raise himself as high above the rest of poets, skill.
Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi. The Dialogue on the Drama was one of his first
The consideration of this made Mr Hales of Eton essays of criticism, written when he was yet al timorous candidate for reputation, and therefore say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever laboured with that diligence, which he might allow
writ, but he would produce it much better done in himself somewhat to remit, when his name gave
Shakspeare; and however others are now generally sanction to his positions, and his awe of the public
preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived,
which had contemporaries with him Fletcher and was abated, partly by custom and partly by success.
Jonson, never equalled them to him in their esteem. It will not be easy to find, in all the opulence of our
And in the last king's court, when Ben's reputation language, a treatise so artfully variegated with suc
was at highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the cessive representations of opposite probabilities, so
greater part of the courtiers, set our Shakspeare far enlivened with imagery, so brightened with illus
above him, trations. Ilis portraits of the English dramatists are wrought with great spirit and diligence. The
(Beaumont and Fletcher.] account of Shakspeare may stand as a perpetual model of encomiastic criticism; being lofty with Beaumont and Fletcher, of whom I am next to out exaggeration. The praise lavished by Longinus speak, had, with the advantage of Shakspeare's wit, on the attestation of the heroes of Marathon by which was their precedent, great natural gifts, imDemosthenes, fades away before it. In a few lines proved by study ; Beaumont especially, being so acis exhibited a character so extensive in its compre- curate a judge of plays, that Ben Jonson, while he hension, and so curious in its limitations, that lived, submitted all his writings to his censure, and, nothing can be added, dinjinished, or reformed; nor 'tis thought, used his judgment in correcting, if not can the editors and admirers of Shakspeare, in all contriving, all his plots. What value he had for him, their emulation of reverence, boast of much more appears by the verses he writ to him, and therefore than of having diffused and paraphrased this epitome I need speak no farther of it. The first play that of excellence-of having changed Dryden's gold for brought Fletcher and him in esteem was their Phibaser metal, of lower value though of greater bulk. | laster ;' for before that they had written two or three
In this, and in all his other essays on the same very unsuccessfully : as the like is reported of Ben subject, the criticism of Dryden is the criticism of a Jonson, before he writ ‘Every Man in his Humour.' poet, not a dull collection of theorems, not a rude Their plots were generally more regular than Shakdetection of faults which, perhaps, the censor was not speare's, especially those which were made before able to have committed, but a gay and vigorous Beaumont's death; and they understood and imidissertation, where delight is mingled with instruc
tated the conversation of gentlemen much better; tion, and where the author proves his right of judg
whose wild debaucheries, and quickness of wit in rement by his power of performance.'
partees, no poet before them could paint as they have The prose of Dryden,' says Sir Walter Scott,
done. Humour, which Ben Jonson derived from par. may rank with the best in the English language.
ticular persons, they made it not their business to deIt is no less of his own formation than his ver
scribe : they represented all the passions very lively, sification; is equally spirited, and equally har
but above all, love. I am apt to believe the English monious. Without the lengthened and pedantic
language in them arrived to its highest perfection :
in what words have since been taken in, are rather supersentences of Clarendon, it is dignified when dignity is becoming, and is lively without the accumulation
fluous than ornamental. Their plays are now the of strained and absurd allusions and metaphors,
most pleasant and frequent entertainments of the which were unfortunately mistaken for wit by many
stage ; two of theirs being acted through the year, for of the author's contemporaries.'
one of Shakspeare's or Jonson's: the reason is, beIt is recorded by Malone, that Dryden's miscel
cause there is a certain gaiety in their comedies, and laneous prose writings were held in high estimation
pathos in their more serious plays, which suits geneby Edmund Burke, who carefully studied them on
rally with all men's humours. Shakspeare's lanaccount equally of their style and matter, and is
guage is likewise a little obsolete, and Ben Jonson's thought to have in some degree taken them as the
wit comes short of theirs. model of his own diction. As specimens of Dryden's prose composition, we
(Ben Jonson.] here present, in the first_place, his characters of As for Jonson, to whose character I am now arrived. some of the most eminent English dramatists.
if we look upon him while he was himself (for his
last plays were but his dotages), I think him the most [Shakspeare.]
learned and judicious writer which any theatre ever
had. He was a most severe judge of himself, as well To begin, then, with Shakspeare. He was the man, as others. One cannot say he wanted wit, but rather who, of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had that he was frugal of it. In his works you find little the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the
to retrench or alter. Wit, and language, and humour images of nature were still present to him, and he also in some measure we had before him: buts drew them not laboriously, but luckily. When he thing of art was wanting to the drama tíu he describes anything, you more than see it--you feel it
He managed his strength to more advantage than any Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, who preceded him. You seldom find him making give him the greater commendation. He was natu- love in any of his scenes, or endeavouring to move the rally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books passions ; his genius was too sullen and saturnine to to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her do it gracefully, especially when he knew he came there. I cannot say he is everywhere alike; were he after those who had performed both to such a height. so, I should do him injury to compare him with the Humour was his proper sphere; and in that he degreatest of mankind. He is many times flat, insipid;lighted most to represent mechanic people. He was his comic wit degenerating into clenches, his serious deeply conversant in the ancients, both Greek and swelling into bombast. But he is always great when some great occasion is presented to him; no man can
1 As the cypress is above surrounding shrubs.