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My warmest acknowledgments are also due to my friend James Bindley, Esq. First Commissioner in the Stamp-Office, whose urbanity, classical taste, and various knowledge, are only exceeded by his great liberality in the communication of the very curious materials for literary history, and the illustration of temporary allusions, which his valuable library contains. By the aid of some very rare tracts and poems in his possession, several of which are wanting in my own Collection, I have been enabled to throw some new light on our author's history, as well as on many of his writings ; as I have more particularly mentioned in the proper places.-I have also to express my acknowledgments to the Lord Bishop of Salisbury and the Lord Bishop of Peterborough, for the facility and aid which they very readily afforded to my researches in their respective dioceses ; and to request that the various Clergymen in Northamptonshire, in Wiltshire, in Oxford, and in Cambridge, to whom I have had occasion to apply, will accept my sincere thanks for the very obliging attention they were pleased to pay to my inquiries, concerning each of which they furnished me with the most satisfactory information. The present Lady Dryden also, great grand-daughter of Erasmus Dryden, the poet's younger brother, and widow of the late Sir John Turner Dryden, Bart. will, I hope, allow me thus publickly to thank her for having taken the trouble to inspect her family papers, by which the precise value of our author's Northamptonshire estate has been ascertained. Zealous to contribute every aid in her power to illustrate the history of her great kinsman, this lady entered with ardour on the inquiry which I took the liberty to suggest to her, and pursued it with such diligence and sagacity as to remove all doubt on a point of some importance, which had eluded the researches of all his biographers.
On reviewing the received accounts of his Life and Writings, I found so much inaccuracy and uncertainty, that I soon resolved to take nothing upon trust, but to consider the subject as wholly new; and I have had abundant reason to be satisfied with my determination on this head; for by inquiries and researches in every quarter where information was likely to be obtained, I have procured more materials than my most sanguine expectations had promised; which, if they do not exhibit so many particulars concerning this great poet as could be desired, have yet furnished us with some curious and interesting notices, and cleared away much confusion and errour; and enabled me to ascertain several circumstances of his life and fortunes, which were either unknown, or for almost a century the subject of uncertain speculation and conjecture.
The Prose of Dryden has been so long and so justly admired for its copiousness, harmony, rich
ness, and variety, that to adduce any testimony in its favour seems unnecessary. To the high eulogy of Congreve on this head, which will be found in a subsequent page, and the printed encomiums of Dr. Warton,' Mr. Mason, and Dr. Beattie, I may however add the authority of the late Mr. Burke, who had very diligently read all his miscellaneous Essays, which he held in high estimation, not only for the instruction which they contain, but on account of the rich and numerous prose in which that instruction is conveyed. On the language of Dryden, on which perhaps his own style was originally in some measure formed, I have often heard him expatiate with great admiration ; and if the works of Burke be examined with this view, he will, I believe, be found more nearly to resemble this great author than any other English writer. 4
* Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, 8vo. 1782, vol. ii. pp. 8, 403.
2 Works of Sir J. Reynolds, 8vo. 1798, vol.iii. p. 216. 3 Essays on Poetry, &c. 8vo. 1778, pp. 16,-533.
4 See particularly a passage in the beginning of Dryden's Discourse on Satire, vol. iii. p. 75:—" It is true I have one privilege," &c. which has a strong resemblance to the style of Mr. Burke. I may add, that Dr. Johnson's general character of Dryden's writings in p. xvi,-“ His works abound with knowlerige,” to “ intellectual wealth,” might be justly affixed as a motto to the volumes of Burke.
Dr. Johnson has said, that “whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison." He who has this object in view, may surely, with equal propriety, be counselled to study the pages of Dryden ; for in them, with the ease, simplicity, and familiar language of Addison, will be found conjoined more fervour, more strength, and more variety. The great characteristick of Addison is his frequent use of vernacular idiom ; of which Dryden was so fond, that having on one occasion employed the Anglo-Latin word, diction, he makes a kind of apology, by translating it: in this respect, therefore, he is entitled to the encomium given to the ancient bard whose TALES he has so happily modernized, and may with equal truth be called “ the well of English undefiled.” But his best praise is found in the following observations of Dr. Johnson, which contain so judicious an account of the pieces comprised in these volumes, that not to prefix them to this Collection of his Prose Works, would be great injustice to our author.
“ Dryden may be properly considered as the father of English criticism, as the writer who first taught us to determine upon principles the merit of composition. Of our former poets, the greatest
dramatist wrote without rules, conducted through life and nature by a genius that rarely misled, and rarely deserted him. Of the rest, those who knew the laws of propriety had neglected to teach them.
“ Two ARTS OF English PoETRY were written in the days of Elizabeth by Webbe and Puttenham, from which something might be learned, and a few hints had been given by Jonson and Cowley; but Dryden's EssAY ON DRAMATICK Poesy was the first regular treatise on the art of writing.
“He who, having formed his opinions in the present age of English literature, turns back to peruse this Dialogue, will not perhaps find much increase of knowledge, or much novelty of instruction ; but he is to remember that critical principles were then in the hands of a few, who had gathered them partly from the Ancients, and partly from the Italians and French. The structure of dramatick poems was not then generally understood. Audiences applauded by instinct, and poets perhaps often pleased by chance.
“A writer who obtains his full purpose, loses himself in his own lustre. Of an opinion which is no longer doubted, the evidence ceases to be examined. Of an art universally practised, the first teacher is forgotten. Learning once made popular is no longer learning; it has the appearance of something which we have bestowed upon