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Cressida. But he could not be insensible to the merit of this scene, though he has' supplied it by one far inferior, in which Ulysses is introduced, using gross Aattery to the buffoon Thersites. In the latter part of the play, Dryden has successfully exerted his own inventive powers. The quarrelling scene between Hector and Troilus is very impressive, and no bad imitation of that betwixt Brutus and Cassius, with which Dryden seems to have been so much charmed, and which he has repeatedly striven to emulate. The parting of Hector and Andromache contains some affecting passages, some of which may be traced back to Homer; although the pathos, upon the whole, is far inferior to that of the noted scene in the Iliad, and destitute of the noble simplicity of the Grecian bard.
Mr Godwin has justly remarked, that the delicacy of Chaucer's ancient tale has suffered even in the hands of Shakespeare ; but in those of Dryden it has undergone a far deeper deterioration. Whatever is coarse and naked in Shakespeare, has been dilated into ribaldry by the poet laureat of Charles the second; and the character of Pandarus, in particular, is so grossly heightened, as to disgrace even the obliging class to whom that unfortunate procurer has bequeathed his name. So far as this play is to be considered as an alteration of Shakespeare, I fear it must be allowed, that our author has suppressed some of his finest poetry, and exaggerated some of his worst faults.
Troilus and Cressida was published in 1679.
And still it might, and yet it may again,
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EARL OF SUNDERLAND *
PRINCIPAL SECRETARY OF STATE, ONE OF HIS MAJES
TY'S MOST HONOURABLE PRIVY-COUNCIL, &c.
Since I cannot promise you much of poetry in my play, it is but reasonable that I should secure you from any part of it in my dedication. And indeed I cannot better distinguish the exactness of your taste from that of other men, than by the plainness and sincerity of my address. I must keep my hyperboles in reserve for men of other understand
* This was the famous Earl of Sunderland, who, being a Tory under the reign of Chạrles, a Papist in that of his successor, and a Whig in that of William, was a favourite minister of all these monarchs. He was a man of eminent abilities; and our author shews a high opinion of his taste, by abstaining from the gross Nattery, which was then the fashionable stile of dedication.
ings. An hungry appetite after praise, and a strong digestion of it, will bear the grossness of that diet; but one of so critical a judgment as your lordship, who can set the bounds of just and proper in every subject, would give me small encouragement for so bold an undertaking: I more than suspect, my lord, that you would not do common justice to yourself; and, therefore, were I to give that character of you, which I think you truly merit, I would make my appeal from your lordship to the reader, and would justify myself from flattery by the public voice, whatever protestation you might enter to the contrary. But I find I am to take other measures with your lordship; I am to stand upon my guard with you, and to approach you as varily as Horace did Augustus:
Cui malè si palpere, recalcitrat undique tutus. An ill-timed, or an extravagant commendation, would not pass upon you; but you would keep off such a dedicator at arms-end, and send him back with his encomiums to this lord, or that lady, who stood in need of such trifling merchandise. You see, my lord, what an awe you have upon me, when I dare not offer you that incense which would be acceptable to other patrons; but am forced to curb myself from ascribing to you those honours, which even an enemy could not deny you. Yet I must confess, I never practised that virtue of moderation (which is properly your character) with so much reluctancy as now : for it hinders me from being true to my own knowledge, in not witnessing your worth, and deprives me of the only means which I had left, to shew the world that true honour and uninterested respect which I have always paid you. I would say somewhat, if it were possible, which might distinguish that veneration I have
from the flatteries of those who adore your fortune. But the eminence of your condition, in this particular, is my unhappiness; for it renders whatever I would say suspected. Professions of service, submissions, and attendance, are the practice of all men to the great; and commonly they, who have the least sincerity, perform them best; as they, who are least engaged in love, have their tongues the freest to counterfeit a passion. For my own part, I never could shake off the rustic bashfulness which hangs upon my nature; but, valuing myself at as little as I am worth, have been afraid to render even the common duties of respect to those who are in power. The ceremonious visits, which are generally paid on such occasions, are not my talent. They may be real even in courtiers, but they appear with such a face of interest, that a modest man would think himself in danger of having his sincerity mistaken for his design. My congratulations keep their distance, and pass no farther than my heart. There it is that I have all the joy imaginable, when I see true worth rewarded, and virtue uppermost in the world.
If, therefore, there were one to whom I had the honour to be known; and to know him so perfectly, that I could say, without flattery, he had all the depth of understanding that was requisite in an able statesman, and all that honesty which commonly is wanting; that he was brave without vanity, and knowing without positiveness; that he was loyal to his prince, and a lover of his country; that his principles were full of moderation, and all his counsels such as tended to heal, and not to widen, the breaches of the nation : that in all his conversation there appeared a native candour, and a desire of doing good in all his actions : if such an one, whom I have described, were at the helm; if he had risen
by his merits, and were chosen out in the necessity and pressures of affairs, to remedy our confusions by the seasonableness of his advice, and to put a stop to our ruin, when we were just rolling downward to the precipice; I should then congratulate the age in which I live, for the common safety; I should not despair of the republic, though Hannibal were at the gates; I should send up my vows for the success of such an action, as Virgil did, on the like occasion, for his patron, when he was raising up his country from the desolations of a civil war:
Hunc saltem everso juvenem succurrere seclo
Ne, superi, prohibete. I know not whither I am running, in this extacy which is now upon me: I am almost ready to re-assume the ancienț rights of poetry; to point out, and prophecy the man, who was born for no less an undertaking, and whom posterity shall bless for its accomplishment. Methinks, I am already taking fire from such a character, and making room for him, under a borrowed name, amongst the heroes of an epic poem. Neither could mine, or some more happy genius, want encouragement under such a patron;
Pollio amat nostram, quamvis sit rustica, musam. But these are considerations afar off, my lord : the former part of the prophecy must be first accomplished; the quiet of the nation must be secured; and a mutual trust, betwixt prince and people, be renewed; and then this great and good man will have leisure for the ornaments of peace; and make our language as much indebted to his care, as the French is to the memory of their famous Richelieu *.
Alluding to the institution of an academy for fixing the language, often proposed about this period.