Dryden Works Essays

John Dryden, (born Aug. 9 [Aug. 19, New Style], 1631, Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire, Eng.—died May 1 [May 12], 1700, London), English poet, dramatist, and literary critic who so dominated the literary scene of his day that it came to be known as the Age of Dryden.

Youth and education

The son of a country gentleman, Dryden grew up in the country. When he was 11 years old the Civil War broke out. Both his father’s and mother’s families sided with Parliament against the king, but Dryden’s own sympathies in his youth are unknown.

About 1644 Dryden was admitted to Westminster School, where he received a predominantly classical education under the celebrated Richard Busby. His easy and lifelong familiarity with classical literature begun at Westminster later resulted in idiomatic English translations.

In 1650 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree in 1654. What Dryden did between leaving the university in 1654 and the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 is not known with certainty. In 1659 his contribution to a memorial volume for Oliver Cromwell marked him as a poet worth watching. His “heroic stanzas” were mature, considered, sonorous, and sprinkled with those classical and scientific allusions that characterized his later verse. This kind of public poetry was always one of the things Dryden did best.

When in May 1660 Charles II was restored to the throne, Dryden joined the poets of the day in welcoming him, publishing in June Astraea Redux, a poem of more than 300 lines in rhymed couplets. For the coronation in 1661, he wrote To His Sacred Majesty. These two poems were designed to dignify and strengthen the monarchy and to invest the young monarch with an aura of majesty, permanence, and even divinity. Thereafter, Dryden’s ambitions and fortunes as a writer were shaped by his relationship with the monarchy. On Dec. 1, 1663, he married Elizabeth Howard, the youngest daughter of Thomas Howard, 1st earl of Berkshire. In due course she bore him three sons.

Dryden’s longest poem to date, Annus Mirabilis (1667), was a celebration of two victories by the English fleet over the Dutch and the Londoners’ survival of the Great Fire of 1666. In this work Dryden was once again gilding the royal image and reinforcing the concept of a loyal nation united under the best of kings. It was hardly surprising that when the poet laureate, Sir William Davenant, died in 1668, Dryden was appointed poet laureate in his place and two years later was appointed royal historiographer.

Writing for the stage

Soon after his restoration to the throne in 1660, Charles II granted two patents for theatres, which had been closed by the Puritans in 1642. Dryden soon joined the little band of dramatists who were writing new plays for the revived English theatre. His first play, The Wild Gallant, a farcical comedy with some strokes of humour and a good deal of licentiousdialogue, was produced in 1663. It was a comparative failure, but in January 1664 he had some share in the success of The Indian Queen, a heroic tragedy in rhymed couplets in which he had collaborated with Sir Robert Howard, his brother-in-law. Dryden was soon to successfully exploit this new and popular genre, with its conflicts between love and honour and its lovely heroines before whose charms the blustering heroes sank down in awed submission. In the spring of 1665 Dryden had his own first outstanding success with The Indian Emperour, a play that was a sequel to The Indian Queen.

In 1667 Dryden had another remarkable hit with a tragicomedy, Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen, which appealed particularly to the king. The part of Florimel, a gay and witty maid of honour, was played to perfection by the king’s latest mistress, Nell Gwynn. In Florimel’s rattling exchanges with Celadon, the Restoration aptitude for witty repartee reached a new level of accomplishment. In 1667 Dryden also reworked for the stage Molière’s comedy L’Étourdi (translated by William Cavendish, duke of Newcastle) under the title Sir Martin Mar-all.

In 1668 Dryden published Of Dramatick Poesie, an Essay, a leisurely discussion between four contemporary writers of whom Dryden (as Neander) is one. This work is a defense of English drama against the champions of both ancient Classical drama and the Neoclassical French theatre; it is also an attempt to discover general principles of dramatic criticism. By deploying his disputants so as to break down the conventional oppositions of ancient and modern, French and English, Elizabethan and Restoration, Dryden deepens and complicates the discussion. This is the first substantial piece of modern dramatic criticism; it is sensible, judicious, and exploratory and combines general principles and analysis in a gracefully informal style. Dryden’s approach in this and all his best criticism is characteristically speculative and shows the influence of detached scientific inquiry. The prefaces to his plays and translations over the next three decades were to constitute a substantial body of critical writing and reflection.

In 1668 Dryden agreed to write exclusively for Thomas Killigrew’s company at the rate of three plays a year and became a shareholder entitled to one-tenth of the profits. Although Dryden averaged only a play a year, the contract apparently was mutually profitable. In June 1669 he gave the company Tyrannick Love, with its blustering and blaspheming hero Maximin. In December of the next year came the first part of The Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards, followed by the second part about a month later. All three plays were highly successful; and in the character Almanzor, the intrepid hero of The Conquest of Granada, the theme of love and honour reached its climax. But the vein had now been almost worked out, as seen in the 1671 production of that witty burlesque of heroic drama The Rehearsal, by George Villiers, 2nd duke of Buckingham, in which Dryden (Mr. Bayes) was the main satirical victim. The Rehearsal did not kill the heroic play, however; as late as November 1675, Dryden staged his last and most intelligent example of the genre, Aureng-Zebe. In this play he abandoned the use of rhymed couplets for that of blank verse.

In writing those heroic plays, Dryden had been catering to an audience that was prepared to be stunned into admiration by drums and trumpets, rant and extravagance, stage battles, rich costumes, and exotic scenes. His abandonment of crowd-pleasing rant and bombast was symbolized in 1672 with his brilliant comedy Marriage A-la-Mode, in which the Restoration battle of the sexes was given a sophisticated and civilized expression that only Sir George Etherege and William Congreve at their best would equal. Equally fine in a different mode was his tragedyAll for Love (1677), based on Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and written in a flowing but controlled blank verse. He had earlier adapted The Tempest (1667), and later he reworked yet another Shakespeare play, Troilus and Cressida (1679). Dryden had now entered what may be called his Neoclassical period, and, if his new tragedy was not without some echoes of the old extravagance, it was admirably constructed, with the action developing naturally from situation and character.

By 1678 Dryden was at loggerheads with his fellow shareholders in the Killigrew company, which was in grave difficulties owing to mismanagement. Dryden offered his tragedy Oedipus, a collaboration with Nathaniel Lee, to a rival theatre company and ceased to be a Killigrew shareholder.

Verse satires

Since the publication of Annus Mirabilis 12 years earlier, Dryden had given almost all his time to playwriting. If he had died in 1680, it is as a dramatist that he would be chiefly remembered. Now, in the short space of two years, he was to make his name as the greatest verse satirist that England had so far produced. In 1681 the king’s difficulties—arising from political misgivings that his brother, James, the Roman Catholic duke of York, might succeed him—had come to a head. Led by the earl of Shaftesbury, the Whig Party leaders had used the Popish Plot to try to exclude James in favour of Charles’s illegitimate Protestant son, the duke of Monmouth. But the king’s shrewd maneuvers eventually turned public opinion against the Whigs, and Shaftesbury was imprisoned on a charge of high treason.

As poet laureate in those critical months Dryden could not stand aside, and in November 1681 he came to the support of the king with his Absalom and Achitophel, so drawing upon himself the wrath of the Whigs. Adopting as his framework the Old Testament story of King David (Charles II), his favourite son Absalom (Monmouth), and the false Achitophel (Shaftesbury), who persuaded Absalom to revolt against his father, Dryden gave a satirical version of the events of the past few years as seen from the point of view of the king and his Tory ministers and yet succeeded in maintaining the heroic tone suitable to the king and to the seriousness of the political situation. As anti-Whig propaganda, ridiculing their leaders in a succession of ludicrous satirical portraits, Dryden’s poem is a masterpiece of confident denunciation; as pro-Tory propaganda it is equally remarkable for its serene and persuasive affirmation. When a Londongrand jury refused to indict Shaftesbury for treason, his fellow Whigs voted him a medal. In response Dryden published early in 1682 The Medall, a work full of unsparing invective against the Whigs, prefaced by a vigorous and plainspoken prose “Epistle to the Whigs.” In the same year, anonymously and apparently without Dryden’s authority, there also appeared in print his famous extended lampoon, Mac Flecknoe, written about four years earlier. What triggered this devastating attack on the Whig playwright Thomas Shadwell has never been satisfactorily explained; all that can be said is that in Mac Flecknoe Shadwell’s abilities as a literary artist and critic are ridiculed so ludicrously and with such good-humoured contempt that his reputation has suffered ever since. The basis of the satire, which represents Shadwell as a literary dunce, is the disagreement between him and Dryden over the quality of Ben Jonson’s wit. Dryden thinks Jonson deficient in this quality, while Shadwell regards the Elizabethan playwright with uncritical reverence. This hilarious comic lampoon was both the first English mock-heroic poem and the immediate ancestor of Alexander Pope’sThe Dunciad.

Late works

In 1685, after the newly acceded king James II seemed to be moving to Catholic toleration, Dryden was received into the Roman Catholic church. In his longest poem, the beast fableThe Hind and the Panther (1687), he argued the case for his adopted church against the Church of England and the sects. His earlier Religio Laici (1682) had argued in eloquent couplets for the consolations of Anglicanism and against unbelievers, Protestant dissenters, and Roman Catholics. Biographical debate about Dryden has often focused on his shifts of political and religious allegiance; critics, like his hostile contemporaries, have sometimes charged him with opportunism.

The abdication of James II in 1688 destroyed Dryden’s political prospects, and he lost his laureateship to Shadwell. He turned to the theatre again. The tragedy Don Sebastian (1689) failed, but Amphitryon (1690) succeeded, helped by the music of Henry Purcell. Dryden collaborated with Purcell in a dramatic opera, King Arthur (1691), which also succeeded. His tragedy Cleomenes was long refused a license because of what was thought to be the politically dangerous material in it, and with the failure of the tragicomedy Love Triumphant in 1694, Dryden stopped writing for the stage.

In the 1680s and ’90s Dryden supervised poetical miscellanies and translated the works of Juvenal and Persius for the publisher Jacob Tonson with success. In 1692 he published Eleonora, a long memorial poem commissioned for a handsome fee by the husband of the Countess of Abingdon. But his great late work was his complete translation of Virgil, contracted by Tonson in 1694 and published in 1697. Dryden was now the grand old man of English letters and was often seen at Will’s Coffee-House chatting with younger writers. His last work for Tonson was Fables Ancient and Modern (1700), which were mainly verse adaptations from the works of Ovid, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Giovanni Boccaccio, introduced with a critical preface. He died in 1700 and was buried in Westminster Abbey between Chaucer and Abraham Cowley in the Poets’ Corner.

Besides being the greatest English poet of the later 17th century, Dryden wrote almost 30 tragedies, comedies, and dramatic operas. He also made a valuable contribution in his commentaries on poetry and drama, which are sufficiently extensive and original to entitle him to be considered, in the words of Dr. Samuel Johnson, as “the father of English criticism.”

After Dryden’s death his reputation remained high for the next 100 years, and even in the Romantic period the reaction against him was never so great as that against Alexander Pope. In the 20th century there was a notable revival of interest in his poems, plays, and criticism, and much scholarly work was done on them. In the late 20th century his reputation stood almost as high as at any time since his death.

James R. SutherlandThe Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

"Dryden" redirects here. For the NHL goaltender, see Ken Dryden. For other uses, see Dryden (disambiguation). For other people of the same name, see John Dryden (disambiguation).

John Dryden
Born(1631-08-19)19 August 1631
Aldwincle, Thrapston, Northamptonshire, England
Died12 May 1700(1700-05-12) (aged 68)
London, England
Occupationpoet, literary critic, playwright, librettist
Alma materWestminster School
Trinity College, Cambridge
Notable worksAbsalom and Achitophel, Mac Flecknoe, The Hind and the Panther

John Dryden (; 19 August [O.S. 9 August] 1631 – 12 May  [O.S. 1 May] 1700) was an English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who was made England's first Poet Laureate in 1668.[1]

He is seen as dominating the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden. Walter Scott called him "Glorious John".[2]

Early life[edit]

Dryden was born in the village rectory of Aldwincle near Thrapston in Northamptonshire, where his maternal grandfather was rector of All Saints. He was the eldest of fourteen children born to Erasmus Dryden and wife Mary Pickering, paternal grandson of Sir Erasmus Dryden, 1st Baronet (1553–1632), and wife Frances Wilkes, Puritan landowning gentry who supported the Puritan cause and Parliament. He was a second cousin once removed of Jonathan Swift. As a boy Dryden lived in the nearby village of Titchmarsh, where it is likely that he received his first education. In 1644 he was sent to Westminster School as a King's Scholar where his headmaster was Dr. Richard Busby, a charismatic teacher and severe disciplinarian.[3] Having recently been re-founded by Elizabeth I, Westminster during this period embraced a very different religious and political spirit encouraging royalism and high Anglicanism. Whatever Dryden's response to this was, he clearly respected the headmaster and would later send two of his sons to school at Westminster.

As a humanist public school, Westminster maintained a curriculum which trained pupils in the art of rhetoric and the presentation of arguments for both sides of a given issue. This is a skill which would remain with Dryden and influence his later writing and thinking, as much of it displays these dialectical patterns. The Westminster curriculum included weekly translation assignments which developed Dryden's capacity for assimilation. This was also to be exhibited in his later works. His years at Westminster were not uneventful, and his first published poem, an elegy with a strong royalist feel on the death of his schoolmate Henry, Lord Hastings from smallpox, alludes to the execution of King Charles I, which took place on 30 January 1649, very near the school where Dr. Busby had first prayed for the King and then locked in his schoolboys to prevent their attending the spectacle.

In 1650 Dryden went up to Trinity College, Cambridge.[4] Here he would have experienced a return to the religious and political ethos of his childhood: the Master of Trinity was a Puritan preacher by the name of Thomas Hill who had been a rector in Dryden's home village.[5] Though there is little specific information on Dryden's undergraduate years, he would most certainly have followed the standard curriculum of classics, rhetoric, and mathematics. In 1654 he obtained his BA, graduating top of the list for Trinity that year. In June of the same year Dryden's father died, leaving him some land which generated a little income, but not enough to live on.[6]

Returning to London during the Protectorate, Dryden obtained work with Cromwell's Secretary of State, John Thurloe. This appointment may have been the result of influence exercised on his behalf by his cousin the Lord Chamberlain, Sir Gilbert Pickering. At Cromwell's funeral on 23 November 1658 Dryden processed with the Puritan poets John Milton and Andrew Marvell. Shortly thereafter he published his first important poem, Heroic Stanzas (1658), a eulogy on Cromwell's death which is cautious and prudent in its emotional display. In 1660 Dryden celebrated the Restoration of the monarchy and the return of Charles II with Astraea Redux, an authentic royalist panegyric. In this work the interregnum is illustrated as a time of anarchy, and Charles is seen as the restorer of peace and order.

Later life and career[edit]

After the Restoration, as Dryden quickly established himself as the leading poet and literary critic of his day, he transferred his allegiances to the new government. Along with Astraea Redux, Dryden welcomed the new regime with two more panegyrics: To His Sacred Majesty: A Panegyric on his Coronation (1662) and To My Lord Chancellor (1662). These poems suggest that Dryden was looking to court a possible patron, but he was to instead make a living in writing for publishers, not for the aristocracy, and thus ultimately for the reading public. These, and his other nondramatic poems, are occasional—that is, they celebrate public events. Thus they are written for the nation rather than the self, and the Poet Laureate (as he would later become) is obliged to write a certain number of these per annum.[7] In November 1662 Dryden was proposed for membership in the Royal Society, and he was elected an early fellow. However, Dryden was inactive in Society affairs and in 1666 was expelled for non-payment of his dues.

On 1 December 1663 Dryden married the royalist sister of Sir Robert Howard—Lady Elizabeth. Dryden's works occasionally contain outbursts against the married state but also celebrations of the same. Thus, little is known of the intimate side of his marriage. Lady Elizabeth bore three sons and outlived her husband.

With the reopening of the theatres in 1660 after the Puritan ban, Dryden began writing plays. His first play The Wild Gallant appeared in 1663, and was not successful, but was still promising, and from 1668 on he was contracted to produce three plays a year for the King's Company in which he became a shareholder. During the 1660s and 1670s, theatrical writing was his main source of income. He led the way in Restoration comedy, his best-known work being Marriage à la Mode (1673), as well as heroic tragedy and regular tragedy, in which his greatest success was All for Love (1678). Dryden was never satisfied with his theatrical writings and frequently suggested that his talents were wasted on unworthy audiences. He thus was making a bid for poetic fame off-stage. In 1667, around the same time his dramatic career began, he published Annus Mirabilis, a lengthy historical poem which described the English defeat of the Dutch naval fleet and the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was a modern epic in pentameter quatrains that established him as the preeminent poet of his generation, and was crucial in his attaining the posts of Poet Laureate (1668) and historiographer royal (1670).

When the Great Plague of London closed the theatres in 1665, Dryden retreated to Wiltshire where he wrote Of Dramatick Poesie (1668), arguably the best of his unsystematic prefaces and essays. Dryden constantly defended his own literary practice, and Of Dramatick Poesie, the longest of his critical works, takes the form of a dialogue in which four characters—each based on a prominent contemporary, with Dryden himself as 'Neander'—debate the merits of classical, French and English drama. The greater part of his critical works introduce problems which he is eager to discuss, and show the work of a writer of independent mind who feels strongly about his own ideas, ideas which demonstrate the breadth of his reading. He felt strongly about the relation of the poet to tradition and the creative process, and his best heroic play Aureng-zebe (1675) has a prologue which denounces the use of rhyme in serious drama. His play All for Love (1678) was written in blank verse, and was to immediately follow Aureng-Zebe. On 18 December 1679 he was attacked in Rose Alley near his home in Covent Garden by thugs hired by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester,[8] with whom he had a long-standing conflict.[9]

Dryden's greatest achievements were in satiric verse: the mock-heroic Mac Flecknoe, a more personal product of his laureate years, was a lampoon circulated in manuscript and an attack on the playwright Thomas Shadwell. Dryden's main goal in the work is to "satirize Shadwell, ostensibly for his offenses against literature but more immediately we may suppose for his habitual badgering of him on the stage and in print."[10] It is not a belittling form of satire, but rather one which makes his object great in ways which are unexpected, transferring the ridiculous into poetry.[11] This line of satire continued with Absalom and Achitophel (1681) and The Medal (1682). His other major works from this period are the religious poems Religio Laici (1682), written from the position of a member of the Church of England; his 1683 edition of Plutarch's Lives Translated From the Greek by Several Hands in which he introduced the word biography to English readers; and The Hind and the Panther, (1687) which celebrates his conversion to Roman Catholicism.

He wrote Britannia Rediviva celebrating the birth of a son and heir to the Catholic King and Queen on 10 June 1688.[12] When later in the same year James II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution, Dryden's refusal to take the oaths of allegiance to the new monarchs, William and Mary, left him out of favour at court. Thomas Shadwell succeeded him as Poet Laureate, and he was forced to give up his public offices and live by the proceeds of his pen. Dryden translated works by Horace, Juvenal, Ovid, Lucretius, and Theocritus, a task which he found far more satisfying than writing for the stage. In 1694 he began work on what would be his most ambitious and defining work as translator, The Works of Virgil (1697), which was published by subscription. The publication of the translation of Virgil was a national event and brought Dryden the sum of £1,400.[13] His final translations appeared in the volume Fables Ancient and Modern (1700), a series of episodes from Homer, Ovid, and Boccaccio, as well as modernised adaptations from Geoffrey Chaucer interspersed with Dryden's own poems. As a translator, he made great literary works in the older languages available to readers of English.

Dryden died on 12 May 1700, and was initially buried in St. Anne's cemetery in Soho, before being exhumed and reburied in Westminster Abbey ten days later.[14] He was the subject of poetic eulogies, such as Luctus Brittannici: or the Tears of the British Muses; for the Death of John Dryden, Esq. (London, 1700), and The Nine Muses.

A Royal Society of Artsblue plaque commemorates Dryden at 43 Gerrard Street in London's Chinatown.[15] He lived at 137 Long Acre from 1682 to 1686 and at 43 Gerrard Street from 1686 until his death.[16]

Reputation and influence[edit]

Dryden was the dominant literary figure and influence of his age. He established the heroic couplet as a standard form of English poetry by writing successful satires, religious pieces, fables, epigrams, compliments, prologues, and plays with it; he also introduced the alexandrine and triplet into the form. In his poems, translations, and criticism, he established a poetic diction appropriate to the heroic couplet—Auden referred to him as "the master of the middle style"[17]—that was a model for his contemporaries and for much of the 18th century. The considerable loss felt by the English literary community at his death was evident in the elegies written about him.[18] Dryden's heroic couplet became the dominant poetic form of the 18th century. Alexander Pope was heavily influenced by Dryden and often borrowed from him; other writers were equally influenced by Dryden and Pope. Pope famously praised Dryden's versification in his imitation of Horace's Epistle II.i: "Dryden taught to join / The varying pause, the full resounding line, / The long majestic march, and energy divine." Samuel Johnson[19] summed up the general attitude with his remark that "the veneration with which his name is pronounced by every cultivator of English literature, is paid to him as he refined the language, improved the sentiments, and tuned the numbers of English poetry." His poems were very widely read, and are often quoted, for instance, in Tom Jones and Johnson's essays.

Johnson also noted, however, that "He is, therefore, with all his variety of excellence, not often pathetic; and had so little sensibility of the power of effusions purely natural, that he did not esteem them in others. Simplicity gave him no pleasure." Readers in the first half of the 18th century did not mind this too much, but later generations considered Dryden's absence of sensibility a fault.

One of the first attacks on Dryden's reputation was by Wordsworth, who complained that Dryden's descriptions of natural objects in his translations from Virgil were much inferior to the originals. However, several of Wordsworth's contemporaries, such as George Crabbe, Lord Byron, and Walter Scott (who edited Dryden's works), were still keen admirers of Dryden. Besides, Wordsworth did admire many of Dryden's poems, and his famous "Intimations of Immortality" ode owes something stylistically to Dryden's "Alexander's Feast". John Keats admired the "Fables", and imitated them in his poem Lamia. Later 19th century writers had little use for verse satire, Pope, or Dryden; Matthew Arnold famously dismissed them as "classics of our prose." He did have a committed admirer in George Saintsbury, and was a prominent figure in quotation books such as Bartlett's, but the next major poet to take an interest in Dryden was T. S. Eliot, who wrote that he was "the ancestor of nearly all that is best in the poetry of the eighteenth century", and that "we cannot fully enjoy or rightly estimate a hundred years of English poetry unless we fully enjoy Dryden."[20] However, in the same essay, Eliot accused Dryden of having a "commonplace mind". Critical interest in Dryden has increased recently, but, as a relatively straightforward writer (William Empson, another modern admirer of Dryden, compared his "flat" use of language with Donne's interest in the "echoes and recesses of words"[21]), his work has not occasioned as much interest as Andrew Marvell's, John Donne's or Pope's.[22]

Dryden is believed to be the first person to posit that English sentences should not end in prepositions because Latin sentences cannot end in prepositions.[23][24] Dryden created the proscription against preposition stranding in 1672 when he objected to Ben Jonson's 1611 phrase, "the bodies that those souls were frighted from", though he did not provide the rationale for his preference.[25] Dryden often translated his writing into Latin, to check whether his writing was concise and elegant, Latin being considered an elegant and long-lived language with which to compare; then Dryden translated his writing back to English according to Latin-grammar usage. As Latin does not have sentences ending in prepositions, Dryden may have applied Latin grammar to English, thus forming the rule of no sentence-ending prepositions, subsequently adopted by other writers.[26]

The phrase "blaze of glory" is believed to have originated in Dryden's 1686 poem The Hind and the Panther, referring to the throne of God as a "blaze of glory that forbids the sight".[27]

Poetic style[edit]

What Dryden achieved in his poetry was neither the emotional excitement of the early nineteenth-century romantics nor the intellectual complexities of the metaphysicals. His subject matter was often factual, and he aimed at expressing his thoughts in the most precise and concentrated manner. Although he uses formal structures such as heroic couplets, he tried to recreate the natural rhythm of speech, and he knew that different subjects need different kinds of verse. In his preface to Religio Laici he says that "the expressions of a poem designed purely for instruction ought to be plain and natural, yet majestic... The florid, elevated and figurative way is for the passions; for (these) are begotten in the soul by showing the objects out of their true proportion.... A man is to be cheated into passion, but to be reasoned into truth."

Translation style[edit]

While Dryden had many admirers, he also had his share of critics, Mark Van Doren among them. Van Doren complained that in translating Virgil's Aeneid, Dryden had added "a fund of phrases with which he could expand any passage that seemed to him curt". Dryden did not feel such expansion was a fault, arguing that as Latin is a naturally concise language it cannot be duly represented by a comparable number of words in English. "He...recognized that Virgil 'had the advantage of a language wherein much may be comprehended in a little space' (5:329–30). The 'way to please the best Judges...is not to Translate a Poet literally; and Virgil least of any other' (5:329)".[28]

For example, take lines 789–795 of Book 2 when Aeneas sees and receives a message from the ghost of his wife, Creusa.

iamque vale et nati serva communis amorem.'
haec ubi dicta dedit, lacrimantem et multa volentem
dicere deseruit, tenuisque recessit in auras.
ter conatus ibi collo dare bracchia circum;
ter frustra comprensa manus effugit imago,
par levibus ventis volucrique simillima somno.
sic demum socios consumpta nocte reviso[29]

Dryden translates it like this:

I trust our common issue to your care.'
She said, and gliding pass'd unseen in air.
I strove to speak: but horror tied my tongue;
And thrice about her neck my arms I flung,
And, thrice deceiv'd, on vain embraces hung.
Light as an empty dream at break of day,
Or as a blast of wind, she rush'd away.
Thus having pass'd the night in fruitless pain,
I to my longing friends return again[30]

Dryden's translation is based on presumed authorial intent and smooth English. In line 790 the literal translation of "haec ubi dicta dedit” is "when she gave these words.” But "she said” gets the point across, uses half the words, and makes for better English. A few lines later, with "ter conatus ibi collo dare bracchia circum; ter frustra comprensa manus effugit imago", he alters the literal translation "Thrice trying to give arms around her neck; thrice the image grasped in vain fled the hands", in order to fit it into meter and the emotion of the scene.

In his own words,

The way I have taken, is not so streight as Metaphrase, nor so loose as Paraphrase: Some things too I have omitted, and sometimes added of my own. Yet the omissions I hope, are but of Circumstances, and such as wou'd have no grace in English; and the Addition, I also hope, are easily deduc'd from Virgil's Sense. They will seem (at least I have the Vanity to think so), not struck into him, but growing out of him. (5:529)[31]

In a similar vein, Dryden writes in his Preface to the translation anthology Sylvae:

Where I have taken away some of [the original authors'] Expressions, and cut them shorter, it may possibly be on this consideration, that what was beautiful in the Greek or Latin, would not appear so shining in the English; and where I have enlarg’d them, I desire the false Criticks would not always think that those thoughts are wholly mine, but that either they are secretly in the Poet, or may be fairly deduc’d from him; or at least, if both those considerations should fail, that my own is of a piece with his, and that if he were living, and an Englishman, they are such as he wou’d probably have written.[32]

Family[edit]

On 1 December 1663 Dryden married Lady Elizabeth Howard (died 1714).[33] The marriage was at St. Swithin's, London, and the consent of the parents is noted on the licence, though Lady Elizabeth was then about twenty-five. She was the object of some scandals, well or ill founded; it was said that Dryden had been bullied into the marriage by her brothers. A small estate in Wiltshire was settled upon them by her father. The lady's intellect and temper were apparently not good; her husband was treated as an inferior by those of her social status.[34] Both Dryden and his wife were warmly attached to their children. They had three sons: Charles (1666–1704), John (1668–1701), and Erasmus Henry (1669–1710). Lady Elizabeth Dryden survived her husband, but went insane soon after his death. Though some have historically claimed to be from the lineage of John Dryden, his three children had no children themselves.[38]

In his will, he left The George Inn at Northampton to Trustees, to form a school for the children of the poor of the town. This became John Dryden's School, later The Orange School.[39]

Selected works[edit]

Dramatic works

Dates given are (acted/published) and unless otherwise noted are taken from Scott's edition.[40]

  • The Wild Gallant, a Comedy (1663/1669)
  • The Rival Ladies, a Tragi-Comedy (1663/1664)
  • The Indian Queen, a Tragedy (1664/1665)
  • The Indian Emperor, or the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards (1665/)
  • Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen (1667/)
  • Sir Martin Mar-all, or the Feigned Innocence, a Comedy (1667/1668)
  • The Tempest, or the Enchanted Island, a Comedy (1667/1670), an adaptation with William D'Avenant of Shakespeare'sThe Tempest
  • An Evening's Love, or the Mock Astrology, a Comedy (1668/1668)
  • Tyrannick Love, or the Royal Martyr, a Tragedy (1668 or 1669/1670)
  • Almanzor and Almahide, or the Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards, a Tragedy, Part I & Part II (1669 or 1670/1672)
  • Marriage-a-la-Mode, a Comedy (1673/1673)
  • The Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery, a Comedy (1672/1673)
  • Amboyna; or the Cruelties of the Dutch to the English Merchants, a Tragedy (1673/1673)
  • The Mistaken Husband (comedy) (1674/1675)[41]
  • The State of Innocence, and Fall of Man, an Opera (/1674)
  • Aureng-Zebe, a Tragedy (1676/1676)
  • All for Love, or the World Well Lost, a Tragedy (1678/1678)
  • Limberham, or the Kind Keeper, a Comedy (/1678)
  • Oedipus, a Tragedy (1678 or 1679/1679), an adaptation with Nathaniel Lee of Sophocles' Oedipus
  • Troilus and Cressida, or Truth found too late, a Tragedy (/1679)
  • The Spanish Friar, or the Double Discovery (1681 or 1682/)
  • The Duke of Guise, a Tragedy (1682/1683) with Nathaniel Lee
  • Albion and Albanius, an Opera (1685/1685)
  • Don Sebastian, a Tragedy (1690/1690)
  • Amphitryon, or the Two Sosias, a Comedy (1690/1690)
  • King Arthur, or the British Worthy, a Dramatic Opera (1691/1691)
  • Cleomenes, the Spartan Hero, a Tragedy (1692/1692)
  • Love Triumphant, or Nature will prevail, a Tragedy (1693 or 1694/1693 or 1694)
  • The Secular Masque (1700/1700)
Other works
  • Astraea Redux, 1660
  • Annus Mirabilis (poem), 1667
  • An Essay of Dramatick Poesie, 1668
  • Absalom and Achitophel, 1681
  • Mac Flecknoe, 1682
  • The Medal, 1682
  • Religio Laici, 1682
  • Threnodia Augustalis, 1685
  • The Hind and the Panther, 1687
  • A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, 1687
  • Britannia Rediviva, 1688, written to mark the birth of a Prince of Wales.
  • Epigram on Milton, 1688
  • Creator Spirit, by whose aid, 1690. Translation of Rabanus Maurus' Veni Creator Spiritus[42]
  • The Works of Virgil, 1697
  • Alexander's Feast, 1697
  • Fables, Ancient and Modern, 1700
  • The Art of Satire
  • To the Memory of Mr. Oldham, 1684

References[edit]

  1. ^"John Dryden (British author) - Encyclopædia Britannica". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2014-05-13. 
  2. ^Scott, W. Waverley, vol. 12, chap 14, The Pirate: "I am desirous to hear of your meeting with Dryden". "What, with Glorious John?"
  3. ^Hopkins, David, John Dryden, ed. by Isobel Armstrong, (Tavistock: Northcote House Publishers, 2004), 22
  4. ^"Dryden, John (DRDN650J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  5. ^John Dryden The Major Works, ed. by Keith Walker, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), ix-x
  6. ^John Dryden The Major Works, ed. by Keith Walker, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), x
  7. ^Abrams, M.H., and Stephen Greenblatt eds. 'John Dryden' in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 7th ed., (New York: Norton & Co, 2000), 2071
  8. ^John Richardson, The Annals of London. University of California Press, 2000, ISBN 0-520-22795-6. p. 156. Retrieved 30 July 2010. 
  9. ^"John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester". luminarium.org. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  10. ^Oden, Richard, L. Dryden and Shadwell, The Literary Controversy and 'Mac Flecknoe' (1668–1679) ISBN 0-8201-1289-5
  11. ^Eliot, T. S., 'John Dryden', in Selected Essays, (London: Faber and Faber, 1932), 308
  12. ^Britannia Rediviva: a Poem on the Birth of the Prince. John Dryden. 1913. The Poems of John Dryden. Bartleby.com. Retrieved on 2014-05-12.
  13. ^John Dryden The Major Works, ed. by Keith Walker, xiv
  14. ^Winn, James Anderson. John Dryden and His World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. p. 512
  15. ^"DRYDEN, JOHN (1631–1700)". English Heritage. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  16. ^Wheatley, Henry B. (1904). "Gerrard Street and its neighbourhood"; 35 pages 
  17. ^W. H. Auden, New Year Letter, in Collected Poems
  18. ^John Dryden The Major Works, 37
  19. ^Dryden, in Samuel Johnson, The Major Works (ed. Donald Greene), 707
  20. ^Eliot, T. S., John Dryden, 305-06
  21. ^Seven Types of Ambiguity, Chapter 7
  22. ^Robert M. Adams, "The Case for Dryden", New York Review of Books 17 March 1988
  23. ^Gilman, E. Ward (ed.). 1989. "A Brief History of English Usage", Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. Springfield (Mass.): Merriam-Webster, pp. 7a-11a,Archived 1 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^Greene, Robert Lane. "Three Books for the Grammar Lover in Your Life : NPR". NPR. Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  25. ^Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, 2002, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press, p. 627f.
  26. ^Stamper, Kory (2017-01-01). Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 47. ISBN 9781101870945. 
  27. ^Cresswell, Julia (2007). The Cat's Pyjamas: The Penguin Book of Clichés (2nd ed.). Penguin Books. p. 98. ISBN 9780141025162. 
  28. ^Corse, Taylor. Dryden's Aeneid. Associated University Presses. p. 15. 
  29. ^Virgil. The Aeneid. Mundelein IL: Bolchazy-Carducci. p. 140. 
  30. ^Virgil. "Aeneid". Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  31. ^Dryden, Jonh (1697). The Works of Virgil in English. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
  32. ^Dryden, John. "Preface to Sylvae". Bartelby.com. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  33. ^"The Life of John Dryden". www.luminarium.org. Retrieved 2017-05-06. 
  34. ^ One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Stephen, Leslie (1888). "Dryden, John". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 16. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 66, 73–74. 
  35. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 June 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-25. 
  36. ^Dryden, John (1800). The Critical and Miscellaneous Prose Works of John Dryden: Now First Collected : with Notes and Illustrations. Cadell and Davies. 
  37. ^Walter Scott, ed. (1808). The Works of John Dryden. London: William Miller. 
  38. ^Authorship is unresolved; not included in Scott.
  39. ^Hatfield, Edwin F., ed., The Church Hymn book, 1872 (n. 313, p. 193-4), New York and Chicago, USA

Further reading[edit]

Editions
  • The Works of John Dryden, 20 vols., ed. H. T. Swedenberg Jr. et al. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1956–2002)
  • John Dryden The Major Works, ed. by Keith Walker, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987)
  • The Works of John Dryden, ed. by David Marriott (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 1995)
  • John Dryden Selected Poems, ed. by David Hopkins (London: Everyman Paperbacks, 1998)
  • John Dryden Selected Poems, ed. by Steven N. Swicker and David Bywaters (London: Penguin Books, 2001) ISBN 978-0140439144
Biography
  • Winn, James Anderson. John Dryden and His World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987)
Modern criticism
  • Eliot, T. S., "John Dryden", in Selected Essays (London: Faber and Faber, 1932)
  • Hopkins, David, John Dryden, ed. by Isobel Armstrong (Tavistock: Northcote House Publishers, 2004)
  • Oden, Richard, L. Dryden and Shadwell, The Literary Controversy and 'Mac Flecknoe (1668–1679) (Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, Inc., Delmar, New York, 1977)
  • Van Doren, Mark (2007). John Dryden: A Study of His Poetry. Read Books. ISBN 978-1-4067-2488-2. 
  • Stark, Ryan. "John Dryden, New Philosophy, and Rhetoric", in Rhetoric, Science, and Magic in Seventeenth-Century England (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2009)

External links[edit]

Dryden, by James Maubert, c. 1695
Frontispiece and title page, vol. II, 1716 edition, Works of Virgil translated by Dryden
Dryden near end of his life
Dryden, believed the first to posit that English sentences should not end in prepositions because Latin sentences cannot

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