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THE SPANISH FRYAR
BY JOHN DRYDEN
WILLIAM STRUNK, JR.
PROFESSOR OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND
LITERATURE IN CORNELL UNIVERSITY
BOSTON, U. S. A., AND LONDON
COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY D. C. HEATH & co.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Printed in U. S. A.
John Dryden was born on the 9th of August, 1631, at Aldwinkle, a village in Northamptonshire. He was the eldest son of Erasmus Dryden, and Mary, daughter the Rev. Henry Pickering. Both his parents belonged to good families, whose members had been conspicuous for their Puritanism and for their opposition to the crown. From a village school he passed to the tutelage of the famous Busby, at Westminster, and in 1650 was admitted at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was elected a scholar. Here he seems to have devoted himself mainly to the Greek and Roman poets, and to have shown an independence of authority which rendered him on at least one occasion amenable to the college discipline. He took his bachelor's degree in 1654. In the same year his father died and left him a small property. Whether Dryden returned to Cambridge after his father's death is uncertain; he at least never took the master's degree, and in 1657 we find him in London, secretary to his cousin, Sir Gilbert Pickering, a member of Cromwell's Council of State. In after years Dryden apparently cherished a certain dislike to Cambridge, expressed in some lines of a prologue written for an Oxford play (1681 ?):
Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
He chooses Athens in his riper age. Apart from three short pieces, of meagre promise, composed while at college, Dryden's first poetical effort was his Heroic Stanzas on the Death of the Lord Protector, written, of course, in 1658. Their model was plainly D'Avenant's Gondibert, but amid their formal rhetoric were touches of the inherent vigor which was to characterize his maturer work. Years afterwards, when Dryden was laueate and the champion in verse of the royal party, his eulogy of Cromwell was reprinted for his vexation. According to tradition, Dryden earned his livelihood for a while, after leaving his cousin's Inploy, as a hackwriter for Herringman the publisher.
In 1660, when Charles II was restored to his father's throne, Dryden celebrated his return with a laudatory poem in heroic couplets, Astræa Redux. “ If he changed," says Johnson," he changed with the nation." This was followed by two similar pieces, To His Sacred Majesty on His Coronation, 1661, and To the Lord Chancellor Hyde, 1662. In 1663 his first play, The Wild Gallant, was acted, but failed. The Rival Ladies, probably in the same year, was more successful. During these years Dryden gained prestige rapidly. He was made a member of the Royal Society, he became intimate with Sir Robert Howard, a courtier and playwright, son to the Earl of Berkshire, and in 1663 he married Lady Elizabeth Howard, the Earl's youngest daughter. In 1664 Pepys records (Feb. 3) seeing at the Rose (afterwards Will's) coffee-house, “ Dryden the poet (I knew at Cambridge) and all the wits of the town.' His play The Indian Emperor, 1665, was a sequel to Howard's Indian Queen, of which Dryden had been part author. In 1667 he published a narrative and descriptive poem of considerable power, Annus Mirabilis, describing two notable events of the previous year, the Great Fire and the naval victory over the Dutch. His Essay of Dramatic Poesy, 1668, in dialogue form, defends the use of rhymed verse in tragedy, a practice which Howard had censured. About this time Dryden contracted to provide the King's Theatre with three plays a year, a rate of production which he failed to attain. He wrote in all twenty-eight plays, including an adaptation of The Tempest, 1667; The Conquest of Granada, in two parts, 1670; Amboyna, 1673, designed to exasperate England against the Dutch ; The State of Innocence, 1677, not acted, dramatized from Paradise Lost; All for Love, 1678; Troilus and Cressida, adapted from Shakespeare, 1679 ; The Spanish Fryar, 1681; Don Sebastian, 1690 ; and his last play, Love Triumphant, 1694. With All for Love he abandoned rhyme and returned to blank verse for tragedy.
In 1670 Dryden was made historiographer-royal and poet-laureate. In 1671 his Tyrannick Love and Conquest of Granada were burlesqued by the Duke of Buckingham and others in a popular farce, The Rehearsal, in which Dryden himself was caricatured as “ Mr. Bayes." In 1673 he became involved in a literary controversy with Elkanah Settle. In 1679 (Dec. 18) he was the victim of a brutal assault by hired ruffians, supposedly at the instigation of John Wil