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attacked it was Martin Clifford, to whom Sprat addressed The Life of Cowley, with such veneration of his critical powers as might naturally excite great expectations of instructions from his remarks. But let honest credulity beware of receiving characters from contemporary writers. Clifford's remarks, by the favour of Dr. Percy, were at last obtained; and that no man may ever want them more, I will extract enough to satisfy all reasonable desire.
In the first letter his observation is only general : “You do live,” says he, “in as much ignorance and darkness as you did in the womb; your writings are like a Jack-of-all-trades' shop,-they have a variety, but nothing of value; and if thou art not the dullest plant-animal that ever the earth produced, all that I have conversed with are strangely mistaken in thee.”
In the second he tells him that Almanzor is not more copied from Achilles than from Ancient Pistol. “But I am,” says he, “strangely mistaken if I have not seen this very Almanzor of yours in some disguise about this town, and passing under another name. Prythee tell me true, was not this Huffcap once the Indian Emperor ? and at another time did he not call himself Maximin? Was not Lyndaraxa once called Almeria ? I mean, under Montezuma the Indian Emperor. I protest and vow they are either the same, or so alike that I cannot, for my heart, distinguish one from the other. You are therefore a strange unconscionable thief: thou art not content to steal from others, but dost rob thy poor wretched self too.”
Now was Settle's time to take his revenge. He wrote a vindication of his own lines; and, if he is forced to yield any thing, makes his reprisals upon his enemy. To say that his answer is equal to the censure, is no high commendation. To expose Dryden's method of analysing his expressions, he tries the same experiment upon the same description of the ships in The Indian Emperor : of which, however, he does not deny the excellence; but intends to show, that by studied misconstruction, every thing may be equally represented as ridiculous. After so much of Dryden's elegant animadversions, justice requires that something of Settle's should be exhibited. The following observations are therefore extracted from a quarto pamphlet of ninety-five pages:
66 Fate after him below with pain did move,
And victory could scarce keep pace above.' “ These two lines, if he can show me any sense or thought in, or any thing but bombast and noise, he shall make me believe every word in his observations on Morocco sense.
“In The Empress of Morocco were these lines :
I'll travel then to some remoter sphere,
on which Dryden made this remark: 'I believe our learned author takes a sphere for a country. The sphere of Morocco ! as if Morocco were the globe of earth and water. But a globe is no sphere neither, by his leave,' &c. So sphere must not be sense, unless it relates to a circular motion about a globe, in which sense the astronomers use it. I would desire him to expound those lines in Granada :
• I'll to the turrets of the palace go,
Just flying forward from my rolling sphere.' I wonder, if he be so strict, how he dares make so bold with sphere himself, and be so critical in other men's writings. Fortune is fancied standing on a globe, not on a sphere, as he told us in the first act.
“Because 'Elkanah's similes are the most unlike things to what they are compared in the world,' I'll venture to start a simile in his Annus Mirabilis. He gives this poetical description of the ship called the ‘London :
«• The goodly London in her gallant trim,
The Phønix daughter of the vanquisht old,
She seems a sea-wasp flying in the waves.' " What a wonderful pother is here, to make all these poetical beautifications of a ship; that is, a phoenix in the first stanza, and but a wasp in the last : nay, to make his humble comparison of a wasp more ridiculous, he does not say it flies upon the waves as nimbly as a wasp, or the like, but it seemed a wasp. But our author at the writing of this was not in his altitudes, to compare ships to floating palaces: a comparison to the purpose was a perfection he did not arrive to till the Indian Emperor's days. But perhaps his similitude has more in it than we imagine : this ship had a great many guns in her, and they, put all together, made the sting in the wasp's tail; for this is all the reason I can guess why it seemed a wasp. But because we will allow him all we can to help out, let it be a phoenix sea-wasp ; and the rarity of such an animal may do much towards heightening the fancy.
“It had been much more to his purpose, if he had designed to render the senseless play little, to have searched for some such pedantry as this :
Two ifs scarce make one possibility.
Rather than take your life, I will not live.' "Observe how prettily our author chops logio in heroic verse. Three such fustian canting words as distributive, alternative, and two ifs, no man but himself would have come within the noise of. But he's a man of general learning, and all comes into his play.
“ 'Twould have done well too if he could have met with the rant or two worth the observation : such as,
Move swiftly, sun, and fly a lover's pace;
Leave months and weeks behind thee in thy race.? But surely the sun, whether he flies a lover's or not a lover's pace, leaves weeks and months, nay years too, behind him in his race.
“ Poor Robin, or any other of the philo-mathematics, would have given him satisfaction in the point.
"If I could kill thee now, thy fate's so low,
That I must stoop, ere I can give the blow,
Piled on thy back, can never pull it down.' " Now where that is Almanzor's fate is fixed, I cannot guess; but wherever it is, I believe Almanzor, and think that all Abdalla's subjects piled upon one another might not pull down his fate so well as without piling : besides, I think Abdalla so wise a man, that if Almarzor had told him piling his men upon his back might do the feat, he would scarcely bear such a weight for the pleasure of the exploit. But it is a huff, and let Abdalla do it if he dare.
The people like a headlong torrent go,
Or wind in volumes to their former course.' “A very pretty allusion, contrary to all sense or reason. Torrents, I take it, let them wind never so much, can never return to their former course, unless he can suppose that fountains can go upwards, which is impossible; nay more, in the foregoing page he tells us so too-a trick of a very unfaithful memory :
But can no more than fountains upward flow;' which of a torrent, which signifies a rapid stream, is much more impossible. Besides, if he goes to quibble, and say that it is possible by art water may be made return, and the same water run twice in one and the same channel, then he quite confutes what he says: for it is by being opposed that it runs into its former course; for all engines that make water so return, do it by compulsion and opposition. Or if he means a headlong torrent for a tide, which would be ridiculous, yet they do not wind in volumes, but come foreright back (if their upright lies straight to their former course), and that by opposition of the sea-water that drives them back again.
And for fancy, when he lights of any thing like it, 'tis a wonder if it be not borrowed. As here, for example of, I find this fanciful thought in his Ann. Mirab. :
Old father Thames rais'd up his reverend head,
And shrunk his waters back into his urn. . “ This is stolen from Cowley's Davideis, p. 9:
Swift Jordan started, and straight backward filed,
And when the Spaniards their assault begin,
At once beat those without and those within. 66 This Almanzor speaks of himself; and sure for one man to conquer an army within the city and another without the city at once, is something difficult : but this flight is pardonable to some we meet with in Granada. Osmin, speaking of Almanzor,
"Who, like a tempest that outrides the wind,
Made a just battle ere the bodies join'd.' “ Pray what does this honourable person mean by a tempest that outrides the wind; a tempest that outrides itself? To suppose a tempest without wind, is as bad as supposing a man to walk without feet; for if he supposes the tempest to be something distinct from the wind, yet, as being the effect of wind only, to come before the cause is a little preposterous; so that, if he takes it one way or if he takes it the other, those two ifs will scarcely make one possibility.” Enough of Settle.
Marriage à la Mode (1673) is a comedy dedicated to the Earl of Rochester, whom he acknowledges not only as the defender of his poetry, but the promoter of his fortune. Langbaine places this play in 1673. The Earl of Rochester, therefore, was the famous Wilmot, whom yet tradition always represents as an enemy to Dryden, and who is mentioned by him with some disrespect in the preface to Juvenal.
The Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery, a comedy (1673), was driven off the stage, against the opinion, as the author says, of the best judges. It is dedicated, in a very elegant address, to Sir Charles Sedley; in which he finds an opportunity for his usual complaint of hard treatment and unreasonable censure.
Amboyna (1673) is a tissue of mingled dialogue in verse and prose, and was perhaps written in less time than The Virgin Martyr; though the author thought not fit either ostentatiously or mournfully to tell how little labour it cost him, or at how short a warning he produced it. It was a temporary performance, written in the time of the Dutch war, to inflame the nation against their enemies; to whom he hopes, as he declares in his epilogue, to make his poetry not less destructive than that by which Tyrtæus of old animated the Spartans. This play was written in the second Dutch war, in 1673.
Troilus and Cressida (1679) is a play altered from Shakespeare ; but so altered, that, even in Langbaine's opinion, “the last scene in the third act is a masterpiece." It is introduced by a discourse on " the grounds of criticism in tragedy,” to which I suspect that Rymer's book had given occasion.
The Spanish Friar (1681) is a tragi-comedy, eminent for the happy coincidence and coalition of the two plots. As it was written against the Papists, it would naturally at that time have friends and enemies; and partly by the popularity which it obtained at first, and partly by the real power both of the serious and risible part, it continued long a favourite of the public.
It was Dryden's opinion, at least for some time, and he maintains it in the dedication of this play, that the drama required an alternation of comic and tragic scenes; and that it is necessary to mitigate by alleviations of merriment the pressure of ponderous events, and
the fatigue of toilsome passions. “Whoever,” says he, “ cannot perform both parts, is but half a writer for the stage.”
The Duke of Guise, a tragedy (1683) written in conjunction with Lee, as Edipus had been before, seems to deserve notice only for the offence which it gave to the remnant of the Covenanters, and in general to the enemies of the court, who attacked him with great violence, and were answered by him; though at last he seems to withdraw from the conflict, by transferring the greater part of the blame or merit to his partner. It happened that a contract had been made between them, by which they were to join in writing a play; and “he happened,” says Dryden, “ to claim the promise just upon the finishing of a poem, when I would have been glad of a little respite. Two-thirds of it belonged to him; and to me only the first scene of the play, the whole fourth act, and the first half, or somewhat more, of the fifth.".
This was a play written professedly for the party of the Duke of York, whose succession was then opposed. A parallel is intended between the Leaguers of France and the Covenanters of England ; and this intention produced the controversy.
Albion and Albanius (1685) is a musical drama or opera, written, like The Duke of Guise, against the republicans. With what success it was performed I have not found.*
The State of Innocence and Fall of Man (1675) is termed by him an opera : it is rather a tragedy in heroic rhyme, but of which the personages are such as cannot decently be exhibited on the stage. Some such production was foreseen by Marvell, who writes thus to Milton :
« Or if a work so infinite be spann'd,
Jealous I was less some less skilful hand
To change in scenes, and show it in a play.” It is another of his hasty productions, for the heat of his imagination raised it in a month.
This composition is addressed to the Princess of Modena, then Duchess of York, in a strain of flattery which disgraces genius, and which it was wonderful that any man that knew the meaning of his own words could use without self-detestation. It is an attempt to mingle earth and heaven, by praising human excellence in the language of religion.
The preface contains an apology for heroic verse and poetic license; by which is meant not any liberty taken in contracting or extending words, but the use of bold fictions and ambitious figures.
The reason which he gives for printing what was never acted cannot be overpassed : “ I was induced to it in my own defence, many hundred copies of it being dispersed abroad without my knowledge or consent; and every one gathering new faults, it became at length
* Downes says it was performed on a very unlucky day, viz. that on which the Duke of Monmouth landed in the West; and he intimates, that the consternation into which the kingdom was thrown by this event was a reason why it was performed but six times, and was in general ill received.