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poetry, was probably the person meant : and such on examination will be found to be the case, for
sometimes to become a practical joker, as appears from some anecdotes concerning him, recorded by Oldys, in his manuscript Notes on Langbaine.
Sidley, though somewhat inclining to corpulency, was a handsome man, and very like Kynaston, the Actor, who was so proud of the resemblance, that he got a suit of laced cloaths made exactly after one that Sir Charles had worn; and appeared in it in publick. In order to punish his vanity, Sidley hired a bravo, who, accosting Kynaston in St. James's Park in his fine suit, pretended to mistake him for the Baronet, and having picked a quarrel with him under pretence of having received a rude message from him, he caned the actor soundly. In vain Kynaston protested he was not the person the bravo took him for : the more he protested, the more blows the other laid on, to punish him for endeavouring to escape chastisement by só impudent a falsehood. When some of the poor actor's friends afterwards remonstrated with Sidley on this harsh treatment of an inoffensive man, he replied, that their pity was very much misplaced, and ought rather to be bestowed on him, since Kynaston could not have suffered half so much in his bones, as he (Sidley) had suffered in his reputation ; all the town believing that it was he who was thus publickly disgraced.
In those days, when a gentleman drank a lady's health as a toast, by way of doing her still more honour, he frequently threw some part of his dress into the flames; in which proof of his veneration his companions were obliged to follow him, by consuming the same article, whatever it might be. One of Sidley's friends, after dinner, at a tavern, perceiving he had a very rich lacecravat on, when he named the lady to whom honour was
Lisideius is only the anagram of Sidleius, or as Dryden seems to have written it, SidleyiUS.Considering the y as an i,* the name thus latinized
to be done, made a sacrifice of his cravat, and Sir Charles and the rest of the company were all obliged to follow his example. Sir Charles bore his loss with great com. posure, observing, that it was a good joke, but that he would have as good a frolick some other time. On a subsequent day, the same party being assembled, when Sidley had drunk a bumper to the health of some beauty of the day, he called the waiter, and ordering a toothdrawer into the room, whom he had previously stationed for the purpose, made him draw a decayed tooth which long had plagued him. The rules of good fellowship clearly required that every one of the company should lose a tooth also ; but they hoped he would not be so unmerciful as rigidly to enforce the law. All their remonstrances, however, proving vain, each of his companions successively, multa gemens, was obliged to put himself into the hands of the operator, and while they were writhing with pain, Sir Charles continued exclaiming " Patience, gentlemen, patience ; you know, you promised I should have my frolick too."
This anecdote Oldys appears to have heard from an old gentleman of the name of Partridge, who was Sidley's contemporary. These adventures probably happened when he was extremely young; and, after all allowances for the thoughtlessness and gaiety of that period of life, have hardly wit enough in them to compensate for the ill-nature.
4 In the last age these two letters seem to have been often used indiscriminately, and the same word is some. times spelt with one of them, and sometimes with the other. Dryden's own name furnishes a proof of the truth of this observation.
becomes Lisideius; or if that change was not intended, we should read Lysideius, in which way, I believe, the word ought to be printed. The character and elevated situation of these persons correspond with the description given of three of the speakers in this Dialogue; for they were not less distinguished for their literary accomplishments“ than their rank. Sir Charles Sidley, a few
5 We have in our author's Maiden Queen-Lysimantes, a modern fictitious name also.--So the ancient names of Lysimachus, Lysippas, Lysias, &c.
6 “ The three most eminent wits of that time,” (says Burnet, speaking of the year 1668,)“ on whom all the lively libels were fastened, were the Earls of Dorset and Rochester, and Sir Charles Sidley. Lord Dorset was a generous good-natured man. He was so oppressed with phlegm, that till he was a little heated with wine, he scarce ever spoke; but he was upon that exaltation a very lively man. Never was so much ill-nature in a pen, as in his, joined with so much good-nature as was in himself, even to excess; for he was against all punishing, even to male. factors. He was bountiful even to run himself into difficulties; for he commonly gave all he had about him, when he met an object that moved him. But he was so lazy, that though the King courted him to be a favourite, he would not give himself the trouble that belonged to that post. He hated the court and despised the King, when he saw that he was neither generous nor tender-hearted. ...- Sidley had a more sudden and copious wit, which furnished a perpetual run of discourse ; but he was not so correct as Lord Dorset, nor so sparkling as Lord Ro. chester.” Hist, of his own Time, vol. i. p. 368, 8vo. 1753.
years before, (1664,) had joined with Lord Buckhurst and others in translating Pompey from the French of Corneille, and probably they both had also published about this time some original pieces; and Sir Robert Howard had in the following year collected into a folio volume four of his plays, one of which (The COMMITTEE) had been acted with great success.
During that retirement in the country which afforded sufficient leisure for the composition of the Essay of DRAMATICK Poesy, and gave rise to our author's Annus MIRABILIS, a poem in quatrains, which was published early in 1667, he doubtless made some preparation for the theatrical campaign, whenever circumstances should permit it to commence. One of his earliest patrons seems to have been Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery, whom
Prior, in “ Heads of an Essay on Learning,” MSS. comparing his patron with some other celebrated men of his own time, observes, that “ Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, was too much inclined to burlesque ; Sir Fleetwood Shephard ran too much into romance and improbability, and the late [Richard] Earl of Ranelagh, into quibble and banter ; yet each of these had a great deal of wit ; and if they had had more study than generally a court life allows, as their ideas would have been more numerous, their wit would have been more perfect. The late Earl of Dorset was indeed a great exception to this rule ; for he had thoughts which no book could lend him, and a way of expressing them which no man ever knew how to prescribe.”
he has highly complimented in the Verses addressed to Dr. Charleton in 1663, and in the Dedication of The Rival Ladies, in the following year; a dedication which he says—he was emboldened to make, though he had not the honour of being personally known to his Lordship, in consequence of the kindness that he had always shewn to his writings, one of which, by his order, had been transmitted to him in Ireland. That nobleman appears to have been one of the first,who, in imitation of the French, introduced continued rhyme into English tragedies ; for which Charles the Second, who took a considerable interest in the business of the theatre, in consequence of his long residence in France was also a strenuous advocate. In compliance with the prevailing mode, The INDIAN QUEEN, and THE INDIAN EMPEROR, were written in rhyme. Between that period, however, and the publication of his Essay, Dryden tells us, he “ lay'd aside that practice till he had more leisure, because he found it troublesome and slow." “But I am no way (he adds,) altered from my opinion of it, at least with any reasons that have opposed it.” In this interval of leisure, therefore, throwing aside the shackles which he had imposed upon himself, he probably wrote Secret Love, OR The Maiden Queen,' a comedy which was acted, it should seem, on the opening of the theatres by
7 The Maiden Queen, and The Wild Gallant, were entered in the Stationers' Books, Aug. 7, 1667 ; the