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ing in the University, having already commenced a poet, and one of his near relations being intimately connected with Cromwell : and here, doubtless, among the fanatick songsters of Trinity College his name would have been found, but for an event which happened at this time, and in all likelihood detached him from the University for some months. In June 1654, his father, who was then, I conjecture, about sixty-six years old, died,' and on the
· · The contributors from Trinity College were, Dr.
Joseph Arrowsmith, the Master; Mr. James Duport, G. L. P.; three of the Fellows, G. Lynnett, A. M. John Wray, (so he then wrote his name,) A. M. the celebrated traveller and botanist, and a third, of whose names the initial letters (I. V.) only are given. One under-gra. duate of the same college concealed himself under the signature, R. C.
3 By the inquest of office taken at Warwick, 28 June, 1632, on the death of Sir Erasmus Driden, (Esc. 8. Car. p. 3. n. 31.) it was found that his eldest son, John Driden, was at the time of his father's death, on the 30th of May preceding, thirty years old, and upwards. From this statement it should seem that he was born about the year 1600; and that our poet's father was born in 1602 or 1603. But the father of Sir Erasmus in his will, made in 1584, mentions his grandson John, the son of Erasmus: and if this John be the person who succeeded to the title, he must have been born in or before 1584, and in 1632 must have been at least forty-eight. Our poet's father, therefore, being the third son of Sir Erasmus, even if a daughter or two intervened, may be presumed to have been born in 1588—I expected to have found the entry of his baptism in the old Register of CanonsAshby ; but that, like many other ancient Registers, is lost. 18th of that month was buried at Tichmarsh, 4 By his illness our author was probably called away from Cambridge, in May, at the very time when his contemporary gownsmen began to “ build the lofty rhime ;” and their incense, it may be presumed, was presented to the Usurper in August or September, before our author's return. The settlement of his father's affairs, and the attention due to his mother and her very numerous family, must have occupied him wholly from June till after the commencement of the long vacation ; and as at that season all who can, usually leave the University, his residence at Tichmarsh was probably protracted to the following October, when his gratulations, however ardent or harmonious, could have found no place in the Academick Anthology.
By the death of his father, as appears from his Will,' which was made December 30th, 1652, and proved by his widow and executrix on the 23d of January, 1654-5, our author succeeded to an estate in Northamptonshire, of the extent and value of which I shall have occasion to speak more particularly hereafter. His property was not situated at Tichmarsh, as has been erroneously supposed, in consequence of Antony Wood having denominated
4 Register of Tichmarsh: for the examination of which I am indebted to the Rev. Mr. Powys, who, after a very troublesome search, discovered the entry above re. ferred to; and also that respecting our poet's mother, which will be found in a subsequent page.
s In the Prerogative Office: Aylett, qu. 28. VOL. I.
his father, Erasınus, as of that town; but at a small village called Blakesley, about three miles distant from Canons-Ashby. Of this estate Erasmus Driden devised two-thirds to his son John, and the other third for the term of her life, to his wife, whom he also made his residuary legatee. To his two elder daughters, Agnes and Rose, he bequeathed one hun, dred and fifty pounds a-piece; to two other daughters one hundred pounds each; to six other daughters eighty pounds each ; to his son Erasmus one hundred pounds, and to his younger sons, Henry and James, eighty pounds each : making in the whole the sum of twelve hundred and forty pounds. From the manner in which these bequests succeed each other in this instrument, it is probable that our author's parents were married about the year 1628, and that some of his sisters were elder than him, From this Will we may also infer, (what from other circumstances is sufficiently clear,) that the maker of it was no friend to the establithed forms of his country ; for, instead of beginning with the usual formulary of that time, it commences in a manner different perhaps from any instrument of the same kind, either ancient or modern :My
6 He names his children in the following order :Agnes, Rose, Lucy, Mary, Martha, Erasmus, Elizabeth, Hester, Hannah, Abigail, Frances, Henry, James. His eldest son is not mentioned, till he disposes of his landed estate. The four daughters named before Erasmus were probably elder than him; and he being born in 1636, and our author in 1631, perhaps one or two of his sisters were born before him.
Will is, that my daughter, Agnes, presume not to marry without her mother's consent ;"? after which he proceeds to bequeath the several legacies already mentioned. He acted as a Justice of Peace,& perhaps as a Committee-man, in the county of Northampton, during the Usurpation, and was probably a zealous presbyterian, as his elder brother, Sir John Driden, who desecrated the church of Car nons-Ashby, certainly was.
Being now his own master, and in possession of his patrimony, for he had nearly attained his twenty-fourth year, our author had the firmness and virtue to resist the blandishments of pleasure, and all the attractions which the metropolis holds out to youthful fancy, and to return to an academick life ; in which situation, however ardent in the investigation, we shall, I fear, in vain endeavour to trace his haunts, or to discover his habits and pursuits. The early history and first flights of every literary man naturally engage our curiosity and attention; but at the distance of a century and a half are involved in such obscurity as cannot be easily dispelled. Having already sacrificed to the
* To secure obedience to this injunction, which is extended to four of her sisters also, the testator directs that the portions of such of these five daughters as married without the consent of their mother, should be con. siderably reduced.
8 In one of the Vestry-books of Aldwinckle St. Peter's is an order made by Erasmus Driden in 1653, by which he gives his sanction, as a Justice of Peace, to the appointment of a parish-officer.
Muses, he without doubt at this period wrote many verses which have perished ; and his fancy was naturally inspired and animated by those charms, to which, even on the confines of his seventieth year, he was not insensible. But of these compositions, however numerous, a few lines only remain, addressed to his cousin-german, Honor Driden, in 1655;' to whom at that time he seems to have paid his addresses in vain. Perhaps the name of Honoria, in one of his earliest plays, (The RIVAL LADIES,) was adopted in consequence of his attachment to this inexorable beauty. Having received from this lady a present of a silver inkstand and other materials for writing, he returned her his thanks in a very gallant letter, (for so undoubtedly it was considered,) which “ craved admittance to her fair hands," and which will be found at length in its proper place. As this epistle is the earliest prose composition of our author's
9 Honor Driden was one of the daughters of our au. thor's uncle, Sir John Driden, the second Baronet in this family. The date of this letter, the original of which is yet extant, has been partly obliterated; but enough remains to shew that it was written in 1655, while Dryden was yet at college. The lady, who according to tra. dition was a celebrated beauty, was then probably about eighteen. Her father, who died in 1658, (not in 1664, as asserted in Collins's BARONETAGE,) by his Will, which is in the Prerogative-Office, (Wotton, qu. 595,) and is dated Jan. 13, 1656-7, (proved Nov. 11, 1658,) left her a very large portion for that time, two thousand five hun. dred pounds. She all her life remained single.