Page images

lished, produced in 1683-4,' the first volume of a MISCELLANY, which was partly composed of the productions of others. This was the first collection of that kind which had appeared for many years in England. Some months afterwards he again reverted to politicks, by publishing The HISTORY OF The LEAGUE,' translated by the King's command, from the French of Maimbourg, with a Dedication to his Majesty, and some original observations sub

“On Tuesday morning (Sept. 14th, 1772,] died at his “ lodgings in Castle-street, Leicester Fields, Samuel “ Dyer, Esq. Fellow of the Royal Society. He was a “ man of profound and general erudition; and his saga“ city and judgment were fully equal to the extent of “ his learning. His mind was candid, sincere, and be“ nevolent; his friendship disinterested and unalterable. “ The modesty, simplicity, and sweetness of his manners “ rendered his conversation as amiable as it was instruc“ tive, and endeared him to those few who had the happi“ ness of knowing intimately that valuable unostentatious " man; and his death is to them a loss irreparable."

I shall add but one word more. When the great and amiable Lord Essex was strongly pressed to put Ralegh on a Court Martial for disobedience of orders, he replied, -" That I would do, if he were my friend."--If the writer of the very unfavourable character which has been now examined, who was certainly not Mr. Dyer's friend for some years before his death, had been governed by this generous sentiment, this long note would have been unnecessary.

9 A book entitled “ Miscellany Poems, containing a new translation of Virgil's Eclogues,” was entered in the Stationers' Register by Jacob Tonson, Feb. 4, 1683-4.

I“ The History of the League, Englished by Mr. joined to the work ; which appears to have been undertaken, not so much with the hopes of promoting popery, (which Dr. Johnson supposed, as to shew that the Sectaries and the Long Parliament, in their solemn Covenant, had the French Leaguers in view; and that all the disciples of Calvin, to the hundredth generation, must continue to hate monarchy and to love democracy. In à Letter to Jacob Tonson, written, as I conjecture, in August or September, 1684, he mentions that he heard with great satisfaction that this work was commended ; and adds, “ I hope the only thing I feared in it, is not found out :"-but to what he alludes, I have not been able to discover.

Early in the following year (1685)2 appeared a second volume of MISCELLANIES, consisting almost entirely of new productions; to which our author contributed a Critical Preface; various translations from Virgil, Lucretius, and Theocritus ; and four odes from Horace, two of which were addressed to his noble friends, Wentworth, Earl of Roscomman, and Laurence, Earl of Rochester. A few days afterwards he was deprived of his royal master, who died on the 5th of Feb. 1684-5. Before his death our author had composed a political Opera,

Dryden, by his Majesty's express command," was entered by Jacob Tonson, in the same register, April 2, 1684 ; and again January 10, 1684-5.

“Sylva,or the second part of Poetical Miscellanies,” was entered at Stationers' Hall, by Jacob Tonson, Jan. 10, 1684-5.

entitled ALBION AND ALBANIUS, which had been rehearsed before his Majesty, who, he says, was a good judge of musick, and expressed himself highly pleased with the performance. Whatever may have been the merits of the musical composer of this opera, * Mons. Grabut, of whom that unquestionable judge, Dr. Burney, has but a mean opinion, the moral of the piece could not but have been very grateful to his Majesty ; the object of the poet, as he has himself told us, being, to represent and celebrate the new Restoration of the King, in consequence of the discomfiture of Shaftesbury and his adherents : a thought which he had before versified in the concluding lines of his memorable poem :

“ Henceforth a series of new time began,
“ The mighty years in long procession ran :
Once more the godlike David was restored,
“ And willing nations knew their lawful lord.”

The performance of this opera, which was printed in folio in 1685, having been prevented by the death of the King, it was not produced for some months, its first exhibition being on the 6th of June. Unluckily, on Saturday the 13th, while it was performing for the sixth time, an account reached the theatre that the Duke of Monmouth had landed in the West;} which created such

* The musick of this Opera was published by Grabut in 1687, with a Dedication to James II.

? Dalrymple’s MEMOIRS, vol. ii. Append. to Part I. consternation, that if tradition may be credited, the audience retired in confusion, and ALBION AND ALBANIUS was performed no more. The piece not having produced to the theatre half the money which had been expended in preparing it for re

p. 128.

From a letter written by King James to the Prince of Orange, June 15, 1685, it appears, that though the Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme, in Dorsetshire, on Thursday evening, June 11th, an account of his landing did not reach the King at Whitehall till Saturday morning the 13th. The House of Commons, having met on that day at the usual hour, between nine and ten o'clock, the news was soon afterwards communi. cated to them by a Message from the King, delivered by the Earl of Middleton (to whom Etherege afterwards wrote two poetical Epistles from Ratisbon). Having voted and drawn up an Address to his Majesty, desiring him to take care of his royal person, they adjourned to four o'clock; in which interval they went to Whitehall, presented their address, and then met again. COM. JOURN. vol. ix, p. 735. About this time therefore, it may be presumed, the news transpired, and in an hour afterwards probably reached the Theatre, where an audience was assembled at the representation of the Opera of ALBION AND ALBANIUS; for plays at that time began at four o'clock. It seems from Mr. Luttrell's MS. note, that the first representation of this Opera was on Saturday the 6th of June; and Downes (Rosc. Anol. p. 40,) says, that in consequence of Monmouth's invasion, it was only performed six times; so that the sixth representation was, without doubt, on Saturday, the 13th of June. An examination of dates is generally fatal to tales of this kind : here, however, they certainly support the tradition mentioned in the text.

presentation, it involved the Company in a considerable debt. +

We are now arrived at a memorable era in the life of Dryden ; for very soon after the accession of King James, he became a convert to popery. That his conversion was sincere, cannot be doubted; for he appears to have bred all his children papists, and was uniform in his adherence to his new faith from this time to that of his death, when, as we shall hereafter see, he persevered in the profession of those tenets he now espoused. During the reign of King William, he well knew that his adherence to the religion of the abdicated monarch, instead of doing him any service, must operate as an unsurmountable obstacle to his deriving any emolument from the countenance and favour of the Government. I suspect, his wife, Lady Elizabeth, had long been a papist : her brother Charles, the second Earl of Berkshire, who succeeded to the title in 1669, and was probably godfather to our poet's eldest son, certainly was one."

Dryden's attachment and services to the Duke of York during the latter years of his brother's reign, it might have been expected, would have been rewarded by him immediately on his ascending the throne, by the grant of some office which

4 Rosc. ANG, ubi supr.

s Macpherson's STATE PAPERS, vol. i. p. 72,-He died in April, 1679, about ten years after his father,

VOL. 1.

« PreviousContinue »