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Ravenscroft, however, seems to have given the first offence; for, in the prologue to “The Citizen turned Gentleman, licensed 9th August 1672, we find the following lines obviously levelled at “The Conquest of Granada," and other heroic dramas of our author:

Then shall the knight, that had a knock in 's cradle,
Such as Sir Martin and Sir Arthur Addle, *
Be flocked unto, as the great heroes now
In plays of rhyme and noise, with wondrous show :-
Then shall the house, to see these Hectors kill and slay,
That bravely fight out the whole plot of the play,

Be for at least six months full every day. Langbaine, who quotes the lines from the prologue to Ravenscroft's “ Careless Lovers," is of opinion, that he paid Dryden too great a compliment in admitting the originality of “ The Assignation," and labours to show, that the characters are imitated from the “Roman Comique” of Scarron, and other novels of the time. But Langbaine seems to have been unable to comprehend, that originality consists in the mode of treating a subject more than in the subject itself.

“ The Assignation” was acted in 1672, and printed in 1673.

[Scott's sentence on Langbaine is just and final, and must excuse me from noticing the idle and uncritical attempts of criticasters to indicate this and that source for the incidents of this and other plays. As however they may interest some readers, they will be inserted

in the Appendix. The charge of plagiarism, as far as the Roman Comique is concerned, is simply preposterous. But I can hardly agree with Sir Walter that The Assignation is on a level with Dryden's other comedies. It seems to me to be the most flagrant example, except Amboyna, of his habit-an avowed habit of dramatic “pot-boiling." Almost all the incidents are forced, the characters are feebly marked and hardly at all worked out, the dialogue is much below the level of Marriage à la Mode or The Mock Astrologer, and the song “Long between Love and Fear” is almost the only redeeming feature in the play,—nor is that up to the standard of the best of Dryden's songs.—ED.]

it. I know," continues the biographer, "he has endeavoured to show him. self master of the art of swift writing, and would persuade the world that what he writes is extempore wit, and written currente calamo. But I doubt not to show, that though he would be thought to imitate the silkworm, that spins its web from its own bowels, yet I shall make him appear like the leech, that lives upon the blood of other men, drawn from the gums; and, when he is rubbed with salt, spews it up again."

* Sir Martin Mar-all we are acquainted with. Sir Arthur Addle is a similar character, in a play called “Sir Solomon, or, The Cautious Coxcomb,” attributed to one John Caryll.

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TO

MY MOST HONOURED FRIEND,

SIR CHARLES SEDLEY, BART.*

SIR,

The design of dedicating plays is as common and unjust, as that of desiring seconds in a duel.

Sir Charles Sedley, noted among “ the mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease,” was so highly applauded for his taste and judgment, that Charles said, “ Nature had given him a patent to be Apollo's viceroy. Some' account has been given of this celebrated courtier in the introduction to the Essay on Dramatic Poetry. Dryden was at this time particularly induced to appeal to the taste of the first among the gay world, by the repeated censures which had been launched against him from the groves of Academe. Mr. Malone gives the titles of three pamphlets which had appeared against Dryden: 1. The Censure of the Rota, on Mr. Dryden's Conquest of Granada, printed at Oxford. 2. A Description of the Academy of the Athenian Virtuoso, with a discourse held there in vindication of Mr. Dryden's Conquest of Granada, against the Author of the Censure of the Rota. 3. A Friendly Vindication of Mr. Dryden, from the Author of the Censure of the Rota, printed at Cambridge. Thus assailed by the grave and the learned, censured for the irregularities of his gay patrons, which he countenanced although he did not partake, and stigmatized as a detractor

VOL. IV.

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It is engaging our friends, it may be, in a senseless quarrel, where they have much to venture, without any concernment of their own.* I have declared thus much beforehand, to prevent you from suspicion, that I intend to interest either your judgment or your kindness, in defending the errors of this comedy. It succeeded ill in the representation, against the opinion of many the best judges of our age, to whom you know I read it, ere it was presented publicly. Whether the fault was in the play itself, or in the lameness of the action, or in the number of its enemies, who came resolved to damn it for the title, I will not now dispute. That would be too like the little satisfaction which an unlucky

of his predecessors, and a defamer of classical learning, it was natural for Dryden to appeal to the most accomplished of those amongst whom he lived, and to whose taste he was but too strongly compelled to adapt his productions. Sedley, therefore, as a man of wit and gallantry, is called upon to support our author against the censures of pedantic severity. Whatever may be thought of the subject, the appeal is made with all Dryden's spirit

and elegance, and his description of the Attic evenings spent with Sedley and his gay associates glosses over, and almost justifies, their occasional irregularities. We have but too often occasion to notice, with censure, the licentious manners of the giddy court of Charles; let us not omit its merited commendation. If the talents of the men of parts of that period were often ill directed, and ill rewarded, let not us, from whom that gratitude is justly due, forget that they were called forth and stimulated to exertion by the countenance and applause of the great. We, at least, who enjoy the fruit of these exertions, ought to rejoice, that the courtiers of Charles possessed the taste to countenance and applaud the genius which was too often perverted by the profligacy of their example, and left unrewarded amid their selfish prodigality.

* At this period, seconds in a duel fought, as well as principals.

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gamester finds in the relation of every cast by which he came to lose his money. I have had formerly so much success, that the miscarriage of this play was only my giving Fortune her revenge; I owed it her, and she was indulgent that she exacted not the payment long before. I will therefore deal more reasonably with you, than any poet has ever done with any patron: I do not so much as oblige you for my sake, to pass two ill hours in reading of my play. Think,

you please, that this dedication is only an occasion I have taken, to do myself the greatest honour imaginable with posterity; that is, to be recorded in the number of those men whom

you have favoured with your friendship and esteem. For I am well assured, that, besides the present satisfaction I have, it will gain me the greatest part of my reputation with after ages, when they shall find me valuing myself on your kindness to me; I may have reason to suspect my own credit with them, but I have none to doubt of

yours. And they who, perhaps, would forget me in my poems, would remember me in this epistle.

This was the course which has formerly been practised by the poets of that nation, who were masters of the universe. Horace and Ovid, who had little reason to distrust their immortality, yet took occasion to speak with honour of Virgil, Varius, Tibullus, and Propertius, their contemporaries; as if they sought, in the testimony of their friendship, a further evidence of their fame. For my own part, I, who am the least amongst the poets, have yet the fortune to be honoured with the best patron, and the best friend. For (to omit some great persons of our

court, to whom I am many ways obliged, and who have taken care of me even amidst the exigencies of a war)* I can make my boast to have found a better Mæcenas in the person of my Lord Treasurer Clifford, † and a more elegant Tibullus in that of Sir Charles Sedley. I have chosen that poet to whom I would resemble you, not only because I think him at least equal, if not superior, to Ovid, in his elegies ; nor because of his quality, for he was, you know, a Roman knight, as well as Ovid; but for his candour, his wealth, his way of living, and particularly because of this testimony which is given him by Horace, which I have a thousand times in my mind applied to you:

Non tu corpus eras sine pectore : tibi formam,
tibi divitias dederunt, artemque fruendi.
Quid voveat dulci nutricula majus alumno,
Quam sapere, et fari possit quæ sentiat, et cui
Gratia, forma, valetudo contingat abunde;

Et mundus victus, non deficiente crumena ? Certainly the poets of that age enjoyed much happiness in the conversation and friendship of one another. They imitated the best way of living, which was, to pursue an innocent and inoffensive pleasure, that which one of the ancients called cruditam voluptatem. We have, like them, our genial nights, where our discourse is neither too serious nor too light, but always pleasant, and, for the most part, instructive; the raillery, neither too sharp upon the present, nor too censorious on the absent; and the cups only such as will raise the conversation of the

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* The second Dutch war, then raging. † To whom the tragedy of "Amboyna” is dedicated.

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