« PreviousContinue »
The state of Dryden's finances now requiring all the aid which his literary exertions could supply, we find him, during the last ten years of his life, constantly and laboriously employed. Early in 1690, if not before, he appears to have finished a version of the first, sixth, and tenth Satires of Juvenal, and to have intended a separate publication of those pieces ;- but on further consideration he enlarged his scheme, and calling in the aid of his two elder sons and some of the contemporary
* On the oth of February, 1690-91, Jacob Tonson entered in the Stationers' Register—" The ist, ye 6th, and the 10th Satyrs of Juvenal, translated from the Lattin into English Verse by Mr. John Dryden. Lycensed by Robert Midgley."
In The GENTLEMAN'S JOURNAL for Feb. 1691-2, Motteux announced that “ Juvenal and Persius, Englished by several 'hands, will be printed in a short time, Mr. Dryden having done four Satyrs of the first, and two of the last : you need not doubt, since he hath so great a share in the undertaking, but the rest will be well done."
Dryden afterwards resolved to translate the whole of Persius, as the same writer, who lived on friendly terms with him, informs us in the following paragraph :
“ Persius is an unhappy gentleman, who hath been for a long time under a cloud; I do not mean as the rest of his brethren, the poets, are under à cloud ; I speak of the obscurity of his expression : but since our Apollo, for so my Lord Roscommon calls Mr. Dryden, hath undertaken to translate him, 'tis hoped he will dissipate the cloud, and illustrate those beauties which were darkened by his gloomy diction; for many of the learned are of opinion, that Persius strove to secure himself under the mists of
poets, resolved to give a complete translation both of that author and Persius ; to which he contributed, in addition to the Satires already mentioned, the Third and the Sixteenth, and the entire version of Persius; prefixing a very ample Discourse on Satire, addressed to Charles, Earl of Dorset. This work was given to the publick in September, 1692. In 1691, his friendship for Walsh, whom, in the Postscript to his translation of Virgil, he denominates “ the best critick in our nation," prompted him to write a short preface to that author's DIALOGUE ON WOMEN ; and in the following February, 1691-2, he was induced, probably by the promise of a reward, to compose an Elegy on the death of the Countess of Abingdon, under the title of ELEONORA ; a poem, which cannot be classed among his happiest effusions, and was attended with the singular circumstance of containing an high encomium on a lady whom the author never saw, composed at the desire of a nobleman with whom he was not personally acquainted.
A translation of Polybius having been made by his friend, Sir Henry Shere, in the latter end of the year 1692, he wrote for that work an account
a doubtful elocution, from being discovered by Nero. The bookseller having thought, with reason, that it would conduce most to his advantage to have the Persius wholly done by Mr. Dryden, hath occasioned a delay in the publication of that and the Juvenal, which, however, will both appear speedily.” GENT. JOUR. for April, i692.
of that excellent historian; and soon afterwards interchanged his toils by preparing some poetical translations and some original poems for his THIRD MISCELLANY, which was issued from the press in July, 1693, with a Dedication to Lord Radcliffe, (the eldest son of the Earl of Derwentwater,) who had married a natural daughter of Charles the Second: from which Dryden seems to have had some expectations that were not fulfilled,? The pieces which appeared for the first time in this Collection, are, a translation of the first book of Ovid's METAMORPHOSES, with select parts of the ninth and fourteenth books; a few songs ; and the parting of Hector and Andromache, from the sixth Iliad. He also appears to have translated from the Greek the poem of HERO AND LEANDER, which he once intended to have inserted in this Miscellany ; 8 but it was not then published, and probably the manuscript is now no where to be found.
Early in that year, Congreve's first play, The OLD BACHELOR, was performed. We know from unquestionable authority, that, in preparing that comedy for the stage, the young poet derived considerable aid from our author. The attachment to which this circumstance gave rise, and the kindness that Congreve, at a subsequent period, shewed to the remains of his friend, by a charac
" Gent. Journ. for July, 1693.
; See Letter VII. from our author to Jacob Tonson. in this patrona.
* Letter VIII. from Jacob Tonson to Dryden..
teristick eulogy, renders him peculiarly entitled to the notice of Dryden's biographer. He was bred at the school of Kilkenny, in Ireland ; and after having studied for some years in the University of Dublin, into which he was admitted in 1685," he came to England, probably to his father's house, who then resided in Staffordshire. On the 17th of March, 1690-91, he became a Member of the Society of the Middle Temple,' with the view of studying law; but growing weary of that pursuit, he is said soon afterwards to have begun his celebrated comedy, at which time he is represented to have been only nineteen years old. Having no acquaintance with the manager of the theatre, Mr. Thomas D'Avenant, he found means to be introduced to Southerne, then an established playwright; who warmly espoused the interest of his young countryman, as he supposed him, and strongly recommended him to the notice and protection of Dryden. After reading his comedy over, Dryden
.." Anno 1685. Die quinto Aprilis, hora dec. po. merid. Gulielmus Congreve, Pensio. filius Gul.Congreve, generosi, de Yogholia, annos natus sexdecim, natus Bard. sagran. in com. Eboracen. educ. Kilkenniæ sub fer. Doct. Hinton. Tutor. St. George Ashe,” Regr. Universitat.. Dublin.
· The following entry is extracted from the Register of the Society of the Middle Temple:
“ Marti 17mo 1690-. Mr. Wilmus. Congreve. filius et heres apparens Wilmi Congreve de Stratton in Com. Staffordiæ, Ar. admissus est in Societatem Medii Templi, specialiter.”
2 MSS. Harl. 4221.
declared, that he never saw such a first play, though from the author's inexperience it stood in need of some corrections, to render it fitting for representation on the stage ; which he readily supplied. So high was the opinion entertained of Congreve, after Dryden's perusal of his play, that, for some time before its appearance on the stage, he was admitted to the freedom of the theatre. At length in January, 1692-3, THE OLD BACHELOR was performed, with such success, that, before the end of the following month, three editions of it passed through the press. As at the time of the author's sitting down to compose this play, he is said to have been only nineteen, so at that of its representation, we are told by all his biographers, that he was but one-and-twenty. The marvellous is always so much more captivating than simple truth,
3 MS. Harl. ut supr.
Ś So say's Dr. Birch in the GENERAL DICTIONARY, from the information of Southerne. So also Lord Falkland, in a Prologue intended for The Old BACHELOR :
“ As for our youngster, I am apt to doubt him,
“ And impudently hopes he shall content you.” And so also Dr. Johnson, (in his Life of Congreve,) re. lying on thesë authorities : “ The age of the writer considered, it is indeed a very wonderful performance; for, whenever written, it was acted (1693) when he was not more than twenty-one years old.”