Page images
PDF
EPUB

think I am poor enough to be one, I would write. a poem on such a subject, in the following manner.' “ He then gave him the plan of THEMEDAL. Dryden took the hint, carried the poem as soon as it was written, to the King, and had a present of a · hundred broad pieces for it.” “ This," adds Mr. Spence, from whom I derive this anecdote, “ was said by a priest whom I often met at Mr. Pope's : who seemed to confirm it; and added, that King Charles obliged Dryden to put his Oxford Speech into verse, and to insert it towards the close of his ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL."-The only parts, however, of the King's Speech on dissolving the Parliament assembled at Oxford, which seem to have been adopted, are the following sentences in the opening and at the conclusion of it :

"The unwarrantable proceedings of the last House of Commons were the occasion of my parting with the last parliament ; for I, who will never use arbitrary government myself, am resolved not to suffer it in others. ------ I am unwilling to mention particulars, because I am desirous to forget faults; but whoever shall calmly consider what offers I have formerly made, and what assurances I made to the last parliament, -•.-•- and then shall reflect upon the strange unsuitable returns made to such propositions by men who were called together to consult, perhaps may wonder more that I had patience so long, than that at last I grew weary of their proceedings. ------ I conclude with this one advice to you,--that the rules and

measures of all your votes may be the known and established laws of the land, which neither can nor ought to be departed from, nor changed, but by Act of Parliament; and I may the more reasonably require that you make the laws of the land your rule, because I am resolved they shall be mine."--These passages our poet might have had in his thoughts, when he wrote the following

lines :

“ What then is left, but with a jealous eye “ To guard the small remains of Royalty ? “ The law shall still direct my peaceful sway, " And the same law teach rebels to obey : “ Votes shall no more establish'd pow'r control, “ Such votes as make a part exceed the whole : “ No groundless clamours shall my friends remove, “ Nor crouds have power to punishi, ere they prove: " For gods and god-like Kings their care express, “ Still to defend their servants in distress. " O, that my power to saving were confin'd ! " Why am I forc'd, like heaven, against my mind, “ To make examples of another kind ? • Must I at length the sword of Justice draw? “ O curs'd effects of necessary law! " How ill my fear they by my mercy scan! “ Beware the fury of a pacient man. “ Law they require; let Law then shew her face; “ They could not be content to look on Grace “ Her hinder parts, but with a daring eye “ Totempt the terrour of her front, and dic. "By their own arts 'cis rightcously decreed,.. .

Those dire artificers of death shall blccd." As both ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL, and THE

MEDAL, threw out a flag of defiance to the whole faction against whom their satire was directed, the author must have been prepared to be assailed on every side. Both these poems accordingly were opposed by numerous Answers, of many of which cven the titles would have been lost to posterity but for the care and attention of a gentleman of that time, Mr. Narcissus Luttrell, who, having formed a very curious collection of Ancient Eng. lish Poetry in twenty-four quarto volumes, distinguished by the letters of the alphabet, continued his Collection by purchasing the principal poetical productions that appeared in his own time, particularly those of a political kind, which he bound up in folio and quarto volumes, according to their respective sizes. He did not neglect even the single half-sheets at that period almost daily issued from the press, but preserved them with the rest ; and marked on every poem, and half-sheet, the price it cost, and the day on which he made the purchase ; which he appears generally to have made immediately after its publication. The Ancient Poetry, some years ago fell into the hands of the late Dr. Earmer,and has recently been dispersed on the sale of his books; but fortunately five volumes in folio, consisting of lampoons, ballads, and other poetry, published between the time of the Restoration and the end of the last century, as well as several productions relating to Dryden, were purchased by my friend Mr. Bindley, (about the same time that Dr. Farıner · acquired the elder poetry,) and are preserved entire in his very curious and valuable library. To this Collection I am indebted for the knowledge of many pieces that have contributed to illustrate our author's life and writings ; and by the manuscript notices which it furnishes, am enabled to ascertain not only the precise date of some of his political poems, but the authors of the various Answers which were made to them, as well as the time of their publication.

The first part of ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL was published in folio, on or before the 17th of November, 1681 ;' for Mr. Luttrell has mentioned, that on that day he received a copy of it “ from his friend, Jacob Tonson." On the 10th of De. cember, a puny champion (perhaps Henry Care, a frequent political scribbler of that time,) sent forth a half-sheet, entitled “ Towser the Second, a Bulldog, or a short Reply to ABSALOM AND AchitoPHEL :" a very poor thing. Four days afterwards appeared “Poetical Reflections on a late poem entitled ABSALOM AND ACAITOPHEL, by a Person of Honour ;" who, we are informed by Antony Wood, was Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Of the merit of this poem some judgment may be formed by the extracts from it already given.' The next assailant that came into the field of cone : troversy was a non-conformist clergyman, who

8 Containing thirty-two pages, and the preface. Price one shilling

9 Sec p. 9, n. 9, and p. 36, n. 4. 1 VOL. I.

m

on or before the 24th of December, published anonymously “ A Whip for the Fool's Back, who styles honourable marriage a cursed confinement, in his profane poem of ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL:” and this was followed on the 18th of January by “ A Key (with the Whip) to open the mystery and iniquity of the poem called ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL, shewing its scurrilous reflections on both King and Kingdom.” In the latter piece, which was written by the same hand as the former, the author's principal object is to show that Dryden's Jewish names were not well chosen. As probably very few of my readers have ever seen this poem, I will add a short extract:

“ How well this Hebrew name with sense doth sound, “ A fool's my brother, * though in wit profound ! * Most wicked wits are the Devil's chiefest tools, • Which, ever in the issue, God befools. * Can thy compare, vile varlet, once hold uue, “Of the loyal Lord, and this disloyal Jew? “ Was c'er our English Earl under disgrace,

" And, as unconscionable, put out of place? ;" Hath he laid lurking in his country-house, "To plot rebellions, as one factious ?

"; ." Thy bog-trot bloodhounds hunted have this stag, **** .. Yet cannot fasten their foul fangs,--they flag. .si

" Why did'st not lhou bring in thy evidence, . 4.“ With them, to rectify the brave Jury's sense, ...

" And so prevent the Ignoramus f-nay, 's. Thou wast cock-sure he would be damn'd for aye,

Achi, my brother, and tophel, a fool.--Orig. Note.

« PreviousContinue »