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and prescriptive place by the fire, was in the summer placed in the balcony, and that he called the two places his winter and his summer seat. This is all the intelligence which his two survivors afforded me.
One of his opinions will do him no honour in the present age, though in his own time, at least in the beginning of it, he was far from having it confined to himself. He put great confidence in the prognostications of judicial astrology. In the Appendix to the Life of Congreve is a narrative of some of his predictions wonderfully fulfilled; but I know not the writer's means of information, or character of veracity. That he had the configurations of the horofcope in his mind, and considered them as influencing the affairs of men, he does not forbear to hint.
The utmost malice of the stars is palt. -
Will gloriously the new-laid works succeed. He has elsewhere shewn his attention to the plane. tary powers; and in the preface to his Fables has endeavoured obliquely to justify his superstition by attributing the fanie to some of the Ancients. The latter, added to this narrative, leaves no doubt of his notions or practice. - So flight and so scanty is the knowledge which I have been able to collect concerning the private life and domestick manners of a man whom every English generation must mention with reverence as a critick and a poer. Vol. IX.
mein DRYDEN may be properly considered as the fa. ther of English criticism, as the writer who firft taught us to determine upon principles the merit of composition. Of our former poets, the greatest drimatist wrote without rules, conducted through life and nature by a genius that rarely mised, 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 Webb 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 Poetry was the first regular and valuable 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 inuch 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 then not 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 ourselves, as the dew appears to rise from the field which it refreshes.
To judge rightly of an author, we must transport V ourselves to his time, and examine what were the
wants of his contemporaries, and what were his means of supplying tliem. That which is easy at one time was ditlicult at another. Dryden at least imported his science, and gave his country what it wanted before ; or rather, he imported only the materials, and manufactured them by his own fkill.
The Dialogue on the Drama was one of his first essays of criticism, written when he was yet a timorous candidate for reputation, and therefore laboured with that diligence which he might allow himself somewhat to remit, when his name gave fanction to his positions, and his awe of the publick was abated, partly by custom, and partly by success. It will not be easy to find, in all the opulence of our language, a treatise so artfully variegated with successive representations of opposite probabilities, so enlivened with imagery, fo brightened with illustrations. His portraits of the English dramatists are wrought with great spirit and diligence. The account of Shak1peare may stand as a perpetual model of encomiastick criticism; exact without minuteness, and lofty without exaggeration. The praile lavished by Long'nis, on the attestation of the heroes of Marathon, by Demosthenes, fades away before it. In a few lines is exhibited a character, so extensive in its comprehension, and so curious in its limitations, that nothing can be added, diminished, or reformed; nor can the editors and admirers of Shakípeare, in all their emulation of reverence, boast of much more than of having diffused and paraphrased this epitome
of excellence, of having changed Dryden's gold for baser metal, of lower value, though of greater bulk.
In this, and in all his other essays on the same subject, the criticism of Dryden is the criticism of a poet; not a dull collection of theorems, nor a rude detection of faults, which perhaps the censor was not able to have committed ; but a gay and vigorous dissertation, where delight is mingled with instruction, and where the author proyes his right of judgement by his power of performance.
The different manner and effect with which critical knowledge may be conveyed, was perhaps never more clearly exemplified than in the performances of Rymer and Dryden. It was said of a dispute between two mathematicians, “ malim cum Scali“ gero errare, quam cum Clavio rectè fapere ;" that “it was more eligible to go wrong with one, “ than 'right with the other.” A tendency of the same kind every mind must feel at the perusal of Dryden's prefaces and Rymer's discourses. With Dryden we are wandering in quest of Truth ; whom we find, if we find her at all, drest in the graces of elegance; and, if we miss her, the labour of the pursuit rewards itself; we are led only through fragrance and flowers. Rymer, without taking a nearer, takes a rougher way; every step is to be made through thorns and brambles; and Truth, if - we meet her, appears repulsive by her mien, and un
graceful by her habit. Dryden's criticism has the majesty of a queen ; Rymer's has the ferocity of a tyrant.
As As he had studied with great diligence the art of Poetry, and enlarged or rectified his notions, by experience perpetually increasing, he had his mind stored with principles and observations ; he poured out his knowledge with little labour; for of labour, notwithstanding the multiplicity of his productions, there is fufficient reason to suspect that he was not a lover.
To write con amore, with fondness for the employment, with perpetual touches and retouches, with unwillingness to take leave of his own idea, and an unwearied pursuit of unattainable perfection, was, I think, no part of his character.
His criticism may be considered as general or oc- } casional. In his general precepts, which depend? upon the nature of things, and the structure of the human mind, he may doubtless be safely recommended to the confidence of the reader ; but his occasional and particular positions were sometimes interested, sometimes negligent, and sometimes capricious. It is not without reason that Trapp, speaking of the praises which lie bestows on Palamon and Arcite, says, “ Novimus judicium Drydeni de poe
mate quodam Chauceri, pulchro fane illo, & ad· " modum laudando, nimirum quod non modo vere
« epicum fit, sed Iliada etiam atque Æneada æquet, “imo superet. Sed novimus eodem tempore viri « illius maximi non semper accuratissimas esse cen• suras, nec ad severissimam critices normam ex" actas : illo judice id plerumque optimum est, « quod nunc præ manibus habet, & in quo nunc “ occupatur.”
He is therefore by no means constant to himself. His defence and desertion of dramatick rhyme is CC 3