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1679 : “I have sent you herewith a libel, in which my own share is not the least. The King having perused it, is no way dissatisfied with his. The author is apparently Mr. Drsyden], his patron Lord M[ulgrave] having a panegyrick in the midst.”
The mean revenge which Rochester took, by hiring some ruffians to cudgel our author on the 18th of the ensuing December,' as he was returning from Will's Coffee-House through Rose-street, Covent-Garden, to his own house, is well known. If there were any doubt of his being concerned in that pusillanimous and disgraceful action, it would be removed by the following passage in another of his letters :
“ You write me word that I'm out of favour with a certain poct, whom I have admired for the disproportion of him and his attributes. He is a rarity which I cannot but be fond of, as one would be of a hog that could fiddle, or a singing owl. If
8 In a newspaper, entitled “ Domestiek Intelligence, or News from both City and Country,” published on the 26th of December, is an Advertisement, offering a reward of £.50. to any person who should discover the offender by whom this assault was committed; and on the ed of January, the saine reward (and pardon) is promised to the discoverer, though he should himself have committed the fact, provided he should make known the person who incited him to this unlawful act. But neither the perpetrators of this outrage, nor their employers, were ever discovered.
he falls on me at the blunt, which is his very good weapon in wit, I will forgive him if you please ; and leave the repartee to Black WILL with a cudgel." :
In this base outrage Rochester has been always supposed to have been joined by Louise de Que. rouaille,? Duchess of Portsmouth, with whom he appears from his letters to have been extremely intimate, and who must have been greatly exasperated by the following lines, as they stand in the original copy : “ Nor shall the royal mistresses bc named, “ Too ugly, or too casy, to be blamed: “ With whom each rhyming fool keeps such a pothcr, “ They are as common that way as the other, " Yet saunt'ring Charles between his bcastly brace, 7 “ Meets with dissembling still in either place; “ Affected humour or a painted facc. “ In loyal libels we have often told him, “ How one' has jilicd him, the other sold hiin ; “ How that affects to laugh, how this to weep; “ But who can rai! so long as he can sleep ?
· Louise de Querouaille, (popularly called Carwell,) came to England in 1670, in the train of the Duchess of Orleans, sister of Charles II. being sent by Louis XIV. with the view of captivating that monarch, and binding him to the French interest. She soon afterwards became the King's mistress, and coinpletely effectuated thc object of her mission. On the 19th of August, 1673, she was created Countess of Farham and Duchess of Portsmouth.
· Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleaveland.
“ Was ever prince by two at once misled,
Our author's literary warfare with Settle and Shadwell,
• Who, by his muse, to all succeeding times,
“ Shall live, in spite of their own doggrel rhymes," . is so interwoven with his political history, that
before we investigate the origin of his variance with the poetical son of Flecknoe, to which we are indebted for one of his happiest effusions, it may be proper to give some account of those pieces which he wrote in support of the party then first distinguished by the name of Tories.
After he had issued out his Annus MIRABILIS, he for many years entirely devoted himself to the stage ; for I do not recollect that he gave the publick any production not of a dramatick form, either in poetry or prose, (a few papers of verses excepted,) between the years 1667 and 1680, when he published a translation of the Epistles of Ovid, two of which, (Canace to Macareus, and Dido to Æneas,) were written by him entirely, and one (Helen to Paris,) in conjunction with Lord Mulgrave. In the Dedication of AurenG-ZEBE to that nobleman he feelingly laments the drudgery which his contract with the theatre had imposed on him. “ If I must be condemned (says he) to rhyme, I find some ease in my change of punishment. I desire to be no longer the Sisyphus of the stage, to roll up a stone with endless labour, which (to follow the proverb,) gathers no moss, and which is perpetually falling down again. I never thought myself very fit for an employment where many of my predecessors have excelled me in all kinds, and some of my contemporaries,» even in my own partial judgment, have outdone me in comedy." He then traces out his scheme of writing an epick poem, which (as he elsewhere informs us,) he at this time meditated, either on the subject of King Arthur conquering the Saxons, or that of Edward the Black Prince subduing Spain, and restoring it to Don Pedro, the lawful Prince:' but this noble design unfortunately he never was sufficiently at ease to be able to execute.
In 1681 he relieved and diversified his dramatick
:: Wycherley and Etherege, were probably the comick poets liere in his thoughts.
Our author appears to have even sketched the prin. cipal outlines of an cpick poem on the latter subject, which he seems to have preferred. See vol. jii. p. 108: _" which for the compass of time, including only the expedition of one year, for the greatness of the action, and its answerable event, for the magnanimity of the English hero opposed to the ingratitude of the person whom he restored, and for the many beautiful episodes which I had interwoven with thc principal design, together with the characters of the chicfest English persons, (wherein, after Virgil and Spencer, I would have taken occasion to represent my living friends and patrons, of the noblest families, and also shadowed the events of future ages in the succession of our imperial line,)" &c.
toils by engaging in politicks, and produced his celebrated satire, entitled ABSALON AND ACHITOPHEL, the great object of which was to gain new friends to the King, and to discredit the faction of Lord Shaftesbury, the Duke of Monmouth, and their adherents ; "a production (says Dr. Johnson,) which, if it be considered as a poem political and controversial, will be found to comprize all the excellencies of which the subject is capable; acrimony of censure, elegance of praise, artful delincation of characters, variety and vigour of sentiment, happy turn of language, and pleasing harmony of numbers : and all these raised to such a height as can scarcely be found in any other English composition."
Mr. Harte, who had studied Dryden's works with great attention, we are told, was of opinion that he had finally settled his principles of versification in 1676, when he produced Aukeng-Zebe; “ and according to his own account of the short time in which he wrote TYRANNICK Love and The State of Innocence, he soon (says Dr. Johnson,) obtained the full effect of diligence, and added facility to correctness." But this great writer was led into an errour concerning those pieces, by former biographers; for they were both written before AURENG-Zebe, and therefore Dryden was possessed of that facility which the rapidity of their execution evinces, previous to the era when his versification is supposed to have been finally settled. When I mention these slight inaccuracies