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Thus I lost him who had been for so many years the he passed through eighteen years of great inequalichief guide of my whole life. He had lived ten years ties; unhappy in the war, in the loss of his father, in Sussex, in great privacy, dividing his time wholly and of the crown of England. Scotland did not only between study and retirement, and the doing of good; receive him, though upon terms hard of digestion, but for in the parish where he lived, and in the parishes made an attempt upon England for him, though a round about, he was always employed in preaching, feeble one. He lost the battle of Worcester with too and in reading prayers. He distributed all he had much indifference. And then he showed more care in charities, choosing rather to have it go through of his person than became one who had so much at other people's hands than his own; for I was his stake. He wandered about England for ten weeks almoner in London. He had gathered a well-chosen after that, hiding from place to place. But, under library of curious as well as useful books, which he all the apprehensions he had then upon him, he showed left to the diocese of Dumblane for the use of the a temper so careless, and so much turned to levity, clergy there, that country being ill provided with that he was then diverting himself with little housebooks. He lamented oft to me the stupidity that he hold sports, in as unconcerned a manner as if he had observed among the commons of England, who seemed made no loss, and had been in no danger at all. He to be much more insensible in the matters of religion got at last out of England. But he had been obliged than the commons of Scotland were. Ile retained to so many who had been faithful to him, and careful still a peculiar inclination to Scotland; and if he of him, that he seemed afterwards to resolve to make had seen any prospect of doing good there, he would an equal return to them all; and finding it not easy have gone and lived and died among them. In the to reward them all as they deserved, he forgot them short time that the affairs of Scotland were in the all alike. Most princes seem to have this pretty deep Duke of Monmouth's hands, that duke had been pos- in them, and to think that they ought never to resessed with such an opinion of him, that he moved member past services, but that their acceptance of the king to write to him, to go and at least live in them is a full reward. He, of all in our age, exerted Scotland, if he would not engage in a bishopric there. this piece of prerogative in the amplest manner; for But that fell with that duke's credit. He was in his he never seemed to charge his memory, or to trouble last years turned to a greater severity against popery his thoughts, with the sense of any of the services that than I had imagined a man of his temper and of his had been done him. While he was abroad at Paris, largeness in point of opinion was capable of. He Colen, or Brussels, he never seemed to lay anything spoke of the corruptions, of the secular spirit, and of to heart. He pursued all his diversions and irregular the cruelty that appeared in that church, with an pleasures in a free career, and seemed to be as serene extraordinary concern; and lamented the shameful under the loss of a crown as the greatest philosopher advances that we seemed to be making towards popery. could have been. Nor did he willingly hearken to He did this with a tenderness and an edge that I did any of those projects with which he often complained not expect from so recluse and mortified a man. He that his chancellor persecuted him. That in which looked on the state the church of England was in he seemed most concerned was, to find money for supwith very melancholy reflections, and was very uneasy porting his expense. And it was often said, that if at an expression then much used, that it was the best Cromwell would have compounded the matter, and constituted church in the world. He thought it was have given him a good round pension, that he might truly so with relation to the doctrine, the worship, have been induced to resign his title to him. During and the main part of our government; but as to the his exile, he delivered himself so entirely to his pleaadministration, both with relation to the ecclesiasti- sures, that he became incapable of application. He cal courts and the pastoral care, he looked on it as spent little of his time in reading or study, and yet one of the most corrupt he had ever seen. He thought less in thinking. And in the state his affairs were we looked like a fair carcass of a body without a then in, he accustomed himself to say to every person, spirit, without that zeal, that strictness of life, and and upon all occasions, that which he thought would that laboriousness in the clergy, that became us. please most; so that words or promises went very easily from him. And he had so ill an opinion of mankind, that he thought the great art of living and governing was, to manage all things and all persons with a depth of craft and dissimulation. And in that few men in the world could put on the appearances of sincerity better than he could; under which so much artifice was usually hid, that in conclusion he could deceive none, for all were become mistrustful of him. He had great vices, but scarce any virtues to correct them. He had in him some vices that were less hurtful, which corrected his more hurtful ones. He was, during the active part of life, given up to sloth and lewdness to such a degree, that he hated business, and could not bear the engaging in anything that gave him much trouble, or put him under any constraint. And though he desired to become absolute, and to overturn both our religion and our laws, yet he would neither run the risk, nor give himself the trouble, which so great a design required. He had an appearance of gentleness in his outward deportment; but he seemed to have no bowels nor tenderness in his nature, and in the end of his life he became cruel. He was apt to forgive all crimes, even blood itself, yet he never forgave anything that was done against himself, after his first and general act of indemnity, which was to be reckoned as done rather upon maxims of state than inclinations of

There were two remarkable circumstances in his death. He used often to say, that if he were to choose | a place to die in, it should be an inn; it looking like a pilgrim's going home, to whom this world was all as an inn, and who was weary of the noise and confusion in it. He added, that the officious tenderness and care of friends was an entanglement to a dying man; and that the unconcerned attendance of those that could be procured in such a place would give less disturbance. And he obtained what he desired, for he died at the Bell Inn in Warwick Lane. Another circumstance was, that while he was bishop in Scotland, he took what his tenants were pleased to pay him. So that there was a great arrear due, which was raised slowly by one whom he left in trust with his affairs there. And the last payment that he could expect from thence was returned up to him about six weeks before his death. So that his provision and journey failed both at once.

[Character of Charles II.]
[From the same.]

Thus lived and died King Charles II. He was the greatest instance in history of the various revolutions of which any one man seemed capable. He was bred up the first twelve years of his life with the splendour that became the heir of so great a crown. After that,

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TO 1689.

mercy. He delivered himself up to a most enormous tion of popery, make such a chain of black actions, course of vice, without any sort of restraint, even from flowing from blacker designs, that it amazed those the consideration of the nearest relations. The most who had known all this to see with what impudent studied extravagances that way seemed, to the very strains of flattery addresses were penned during his last, to be much delighted in and pursued by him. life, and yet more grossly after his death. His conHe had the art of making all people grow fond of him tributing so much to the raising the greatness of at first, by a softness in his whole way of conversation, France, chiefly at sea, was such an error, that it could as he was certainly the best-bred man of the age. not flow from want of thought, or of true sense. But when it appeared how little could be built on Ruvigny told me he desired that all the methods the his promise, they were cured of the fondness that he French took in the increase and conduct of their naval was apt to raise in them. When he saw young men force might be sent him; and he said he seemed to of quality, who had something more than ordinary in study them with concern and zeal. He showed what them, he drew them about him, and set himself to errors they committed, and how they ought to be corcorrupt them both in religion and morality; in which rected, as if he had been a viceroy to France, rather he proved so unhappily successful, that he left Eng- than a king that ought to have watched over and land much changed at his death from what he had prevented the progress they made, as the greatest of found it at his restoration. He loved to talk over all all the mischiefs that could happen to him or to his the stories of his life to every new man that came people. about him. His stay in Scotland, and the share he this, thought it was done out of revenge to the Dutch, They that judged the most favourably of had in the war of Paris, in carrying messages from that, with the assistance of so great a fleet as France the one side to the other, were his common topics. could join to his own, he might be able to destroy He went over these in a very graceful manner, but them. But others put a worse construction on it; so often and so copiously, that all those who had been and thought, that seeing he could not quite master long accustomed to them grew weary of them; and or deceive his subjects by his own strength and mawhen he entered on those stories, they usually with- nagement, he was willing to help forward the greatdrew. So that he often began them in a full audience, ness of the French at sea, that by their assistance he and before he had done, there were not above four or might more certainly subdue his own people; accordfive persons left about him, which drew a severe jest ing to what was generally believed to have fallen from from Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. He said he won- Lord Clifford, that if the king must be in a dependdered to see a man have so good a memory as to re-ence, it was better to pay it to a great and generous peat the same story without losing the least circum- king, than to five hundred of his own insolent substance, and yet not remember that he had told it to jects. the same persons the very day before. This made him fond of strangers, for they hearkened to all his often-repeated stories, and went away as in a rapture at such an uncommon condescension in a king.

His person and temper, his vices as well as his fortunes, resemble the character that we have given us of Tiberius so much, that it were easy to draw the parallel between them. Tiberius's banishment, and his coming afterwards to reign, makes the comparison in that respect come pretty near. His hating of business, and his love of pleasures; his raising of favourites, and trusting them entirely; and his pulling them down, and hating them excessively; his art of covering deep designs, particularly of revenge, with an appearance of softness, brings them so near a likeness, that I did not wonder much to observe the resemblance of their faces and persons. At Rome, I saw one of the last statues made for Tiberius, after he had lost his teeth. But, bating the alteration which that made, it was so like King Charles, that Prince Borghese and Signior Dominico, to whom it belonged, did agree with me in thinking that it looked like a statue made for him.

Few things ever went near his heart. The Duke of Gloucester's death seemed to touch him much. But those who knew him best, thought it was because he had lost him by whom only he could have balanced the surviving brother, whom he hated, and yet embroiled all his affairs to preserve the succession to

as meaner, than that he, all the while that he was No part of his character looked wickeder, as well professing to be of the church of England, expressing ciled to the church of Rome; thus mocking God, and both zeal and affection to it, was yet secretly recondeceiving the world with so gross a prevarication. And his not having the honesty or courage to own it at the last; his not showing any sign of the least remorse for his ill-led life, or any tenderness either for his subjects in general, or for the queen and his servants; and his recommending only his mistresses and their children to his brother's care, would have been enough suited to all the other parts of his. a strange conclusion to any other's life, but was well

[The Czar Peter in England in 1698.]
[From the same.]

Czar's coming out of his own country, on which I will I mentioned, in the relation of the former year, the now enlarge. He came this winter over to England, and stayed some months among us. archbishop and bishops, to attend upon him, and to on him, and was ordered, both by the king and the I waited often offer him such informations of our religion and constitution as he was willing to receive. I had good interpreters, so I had much free discourse with him. He is a man of a very hot temper, soon inflamed, and very brutal in his passion. He raises his natural heat His ill conduct in the first Dutch war, and those with great application; he is subject to convulsive by drinking much brandy, which he rectifies himself terrible calamities of the plague and fire of London, motions all over his body, and his head seems to be with that loss and reproach which he suffered by the affected with these; he wants not capacity, and has a insult at Chatham, made all people conclude there larger measure of knowledge than might be expected was a curse upon his government. His throwing the from his education, which was very indifferent; a want public hatred at that time upon Lord Clarendon was of judgment, with an instability of temper, appear both unjust and ungrateful. And when his people in him too often and too evidently; he is mechanihad brought him out of all his difficulties upon his cally turned, and seems designed by nature rather to entering into the triple alliance, his selling that to be a ship-carpenter than a great prince. This was his France, and his entering on the second Dutch war chief study and exercise while he stayed here; he with as little colour as he had for the first; his wrought much with his own hands, and made all beginning it with the attempt on the Dutch Smyrna about him work at the models of ships. He told me fleet, the shutting up the exchequer, and his declara- he designed a great fleet at Azuph, and with it to tion for toleration, which was a step for the introduc-attack the Turkish empire; but he did not seem cap


able of conducting so great a design, though his conduct in his wars since this has discovered a greater genius in him than appeared at that time. He was desirous to understand our doctrine, but he did not seem disposed to mend matters in Moscovy. He was, indeed, resolved to encourage learning, and to polish his people by sending some of them to travel in other countries, and to draw strangers to come and live among them. He seemed apprehensive still of his sister's intrigues. There was a mixture both of passion and severity in his temper. He is resolute, but understands little of war, and seemed not at all inquisitive that way. After I had seen him often, and had conversed much with him, I could not but adore the depth of the providence of God, that had raised up such a furious man to so absolute an authority over so great a part of the world.

David, considering the great things God had made for the use of man, broke out into the meditation," What is man that thou art so mindful of him?' But here there is an occasion for reversing these words, since man seems a very contemptible thing in the sight of God, while such a person as the Czar has such multitudes put, as it were, under his feet, exposed to his restless jealousy and savage temper. He went from hence to the court of Vienna, where he purposed to have stayed some time; but he was called home, sooner than he had intended, upon a discovery or a suspicion of intrigues managed by his sister. The strangers, to whom he trusted most, were so true to him, that those designs were crushed before he came back. But on this occasion he let loose his fury on all whom he suspected. Some hundreds of them were hanged all round Moscow; and it was said that he cut off many heads with his own hand. And so far was he from relenting, or showing any sort of tenderness, that he seemed delighted with it. How long he is to be the scourge of that nation, or of his neighbours, God only knows. So extraordinary an incident will, I hope, justify such a digression.

to the humours of his people, to make himself and his notions more acceptable to them. This, in a government that has so much of freedom in it as ours, was more necessary than he was inclined to believe. His reservedness grew on him, so that it disgusted most of those who served him; but he had observed the errors of too much talking, more than those of too cold a silence. He did not like contradiction, nor to have his actions censured; but he loved to employ and favour those who had the arts of complacence, yet he did not love flatterers. His genius lay chiefly to war, in which his courage was more admired than his conduct. Great errors were often committed by him; but his heroical courage set things right, as it inflamed those who were about him. He was too lavish of money on some occasions, both in his buildings and to his favourites, but too sparing in rewarding services, or in encouraging those who brought intelligence. He was apt to take ill impressions of people, and these stuck long with him ; but he never carried them to indecent revenges. He gave too much way to his own humour, almost in everything, not excepting that which related to his own health. He knew all foreign affairs well, and understood the state of every court in Europe very particularly. He instructed his own ministers himself, but he did not apply enough to affairs at home. He tried how he could govern us, by balancing the two parties one against another; but he came at last to be persuaded that the Tories were irreconcilable to him, and he was resolved to try and trust them no more. He believed the truth of the Christian religion very firmly, and he expressed a horror at atheism and blasphemy; and though there was much of both in his court, yet it was always denied to him, and kept out of sight. He was most exemplarily decent and devout in the public exercises of the worship of God; only on week-days he came too seldom to them. He was an attentive hearer of sermons, and was constant in his private prayers, and in reading the Scriptures; and when he spoke of religious matters, which he did not often, it was with a becoming gravity. He was much possessed with the belief of absolute decrees. He said to me he adhered to these, because he did Thus lived and died William III., King of Great not see how the belief of Providence could be mainBritain, and Prince of Orange. He had a thin and tained upon any other supposition. His indifference weak body, was brown-haired, and of a clear and deli- as to the forms of church-government, and his being cate constitution. He had a Roman eagle nose, bright zealous for toleration, together with his cold behaviour and sparkling eyes, a large front, and a countenance towards the clergy, gave them generally very ill imcomposed to gravity and authority. All his senses pressions of him. In his deportment towards all about were critical and exquisite. He was always asthma- him, he seemed to make little distinction between tical; and the dregs of the small-pox falling on his the good and the bad, and those who served well, or lungs, he had a constant deep cough. His behaviour those who served him ill. He loved the Dutch, and was solemn and serious, seldom cheerful, and but with was much beloved among them; but the ill returns a few. He spoke little and very slowly, and most he met from the English nation, their jealousies of commonly with a disgusting dryness, which was his him, and their perverseness towards him, had too character at all times, except in a day of battle; for much soured his mind, and had in a great measure then he was all fire, though without passion; he was alienated him from them; which he did not take care then everywhere, and looked to everything. He had no enough to conceal, though he saw the ill effects this great advantage from his education. De Witt's dis- had upon his business. He grew, in his last years, courses were of great use to him; and he, being appre- too remiss and careless as to all affairs, till the hensive of the observation of those who were looking treacheries of France awakened him, and the dreadnarrowly into everything he said or did, had brought ful conjunction of the monarchies gave so loud an himself under a habitual caution, that he could never alarm to all Europe; for a watching over that court, shake off; though in another scene it proved as hurt- and a bestirring himself against their practices, was ful as it was then necessary to his affairs. He spoke the prevailing passion of his whole life. Few men Dutch, French, English, and German equally well; had the art of concealing and governing passion more and he understood the Latin, Spanish, and Italian, than he had; yet few men had stronger passions, so that he was well fitted to command armies com- which were seldom felt but by inferior servants, to posed of several nations. He had a memory that whom he usually made such recompenses for any amazed all about him, for it never failed him. He sudden or indecent vents he might give his anger, was an exact observer of men and things. His strength that they were glad at every time that it broke upon lay rather in a true discerning and a sound judgment, them. He was too easy to the faults of those about than in imagination or invention. His designs were him, when they did not lie in his own way, or cross always great and good. But it was thought he trusted any of his designs; and he was so apt to think that too much to that, and that he did not descend enough | his ministers might grow insolent, if they should find

[Character of William III.]

[From the same.]

that they had much credit with him, that he seemed to have made it a maxim to let them often feel how little power they had even in small matters. His favourites had a more entire power, but he accustomed them only to inform him of things, but to be sparing in offering advice, except when it was asked. It was not easy to account for the reasons of the favour that he showed, in the highest instances, to two persons beyond all others, the Earls of Portland and Albemarle, they being in all respects men not only of different, but of opposite characters. Secrecy and fidelity were the only qualities in which it could be said that they did in any sort agree. I have now run through the chief branches of his character. I had occasion to know him well, having observed him very carefully in a course of sixteen years. I had a large measure of his favour, and a free access to him all the while, though not at all times to the same degree. The freedom that I used with him was not always acceptable; but he saw that I served him faithfully; so, after some intervals of coldness, he always returned to a good measure of confidence in me. I was, in many great instances, much obliged by him; but that was not my chief bias to him; I considered him as a person raised up by God to resist the power of France, and the progress of tyranny and persecution. The series of the five Princes of Orange that was now ended in him, was the noblest succession of heroes that we

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find in any history. And the thirty years, from the year 1672 to his death, in which he acted so great a part, carry in them so many amazing steps of a glorious and distinguishing Providence, that, in the words of David, he may be called The man of God's right hand, whom he made strong for himself.' After all the abatements that may be allowed for his errors and faults, he ought still to be reckoned among the greatest princes that our history, or indeed that any other, glory, since he had formed a great alliance, and had projected the whole scheme of the war; so that if it succeeds, a great part of the honour of it will be ascribed to him; and if otherwise, it will be said he was the soul of the alliance, that did both animate and knit it together, and that it was natural for that body to die and fall asunder, when he who gave it life was withdrawn. Upon his death, some moved for a magnificent funeral; but it seemed not decent to run into unnecessary expense, when we were entering on a war that must be maintained at a vast charge. So a private funeral was resolved on. But for the honour of his memory, a noble monument and an equestrian statue were ordered. Some years must show whether these things were really intended, or if they were only spoke of to excuse the privacy of his funeral, which was scarce decent, so far was it from being magnificent.

can afford. He died in a critical time for his own


DRYDEN, who contributed more than any other English writer to improve the poetical diction of his native tongue, performed also essential service of the same kind with respect to the quality of our prose. Throwing off, still more than Cowley had done, those inversions and other forms of Latin idiom which abound in the pages of his most distinguished predecessors, Dryden speaks in the language of one addressing, in easy yet dignified conversational phraseology, an assemblage of polite and well-educated men. Strength, ease, copiousness, variety, and animation, are the predominant qualities of his style; but the haste with which he composed, and his inherent dislike to the labour of correction, are sometimes betrayed by the negligence and roughness of his sentences. On the whole, however, to the prose of Dryden may be assigned the foremost place

among the specimens which can be furnished of vigorous and genuine idiomatic English. In addition to the qualities just enumerated, it possesses those of equability and freedom from mannerism. Speaking of this attribute of Dryden's style, Dr Johnson observes, He who writes much, will not easily escape a manner-such a recurrence of particular modes as may be easily noted. Dryden is always another and the same; he does not exhibit a second time the same elegances in the same form, nor appears to have any art other than that of expressing with clearness what he thinks with vigour. His style could not easily be imitated, either seriously or ludicrously; for, being always equable and always varied, it has no prominent or discriminative characters. The beauty who is totally free from disproportion of parts and features, cannot be ridiculed by an overcharged resemblance.**

Dryden has left no extensive work in prose; the pieces which he wrote were merely accompaniments to his poems and plays, and consist of prefaces, dedications, and critical essays. His dedications are noted for the fulsome and unprincipled flattery in which he seems to have thought himself authorised by his poverty to indulge. The critical essays, though written with more haste and carelessness than would now be tolerated in similar producthoughts on subjects connected with polite litetions, embody many sound and vigorously-expressed rature. Of his prefaces Dr Johnson remarks, "They have not the formality of a settled style, in which the first half of the sentence betrays the other. The clauses are never balanced, nor the periods modelled; every word seems to drop by chance, though it falls the whole is airy, animated, and vigorous; what is into its proper place. Nothing is cold or languid; little is gay; what is great is splendid. He may be thought to mention himself too frequently; but while he forces himself upon our esteem, we cannot refuse him to stand high in his own. Everything is excused by the play of images and the sprightliness of expression. Though all is easy, nothing is feeble; though all seems careless, there is nothing harsh; and though, since his earlier works, more than a century has passed, they have nothing yet uncouth or obsolete.'

According to the same critic, Dryden's Essay on Dramatic Poesy 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 much 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 dramatic 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 ourselves to his time, and examine what were the wants of his cotemporaries, and what were his means of supplying them. That which was easy at one time was difficult at another. Dryden, at least, | imported his science, and gave his country what it

* Johnson's Life of Dryden.

wanted before; or rather he imported only the materials, and manufactured them by his own skill.

say he ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not then raise himself as high above the rest of poets,

Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi.1

The consideration of this made Mr Hales of Eton

[Beaumont and Fletcher.]

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 say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever laboured with that diligence, which he might allow writ, but he would produce it much better done in himself somewhat to remit, when his name gave Shakspeare; and however others are now generally sanction to his positions, and his awe of the public preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, which had contemporaries with him Fletcher and was abated, partly by custom and partly by success. It will not be easy to find, in all the opulence of our Jonson, never equalled them to him in their esteem. And in the last king's court, when Ben's reputation language, a treatise so artfully variegated with sucwas at highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the cessive representations of opposite probabilities, so enlivened with imagery, so brightened with illus-greater part of the courtiers, set our Shakspeare far above him. trations. His portraits of the English dramatists are wrought with great spirit and diligence. The account of Shakspeare may stand as a perpetual model of encomiastic criticism; being lofty with- Beaumont and Fletcher, of whom I am next to out exaggeration. The praise lavished by Longinus speak, had, with the advantage of Shakspeare's wit, on the attestation of the heroes of Marathon by which was their precedent, great natural gifts, imDemosthenes, fades away before it. In a few lines proved by study; Beaumont especially, being so acis exhibited a character so extensive in its compre- curate a judge of plays, that Ben Jonson, while he hension, and so curious in its limitations, that lived, submitted all his writings to his censure, and, nothing can be added, diminished, or reformed; nor 'tis thought, used his judgment in correcting, if not can the editors and admirers of Shakspeare, in all contriving, all his plots. What value he had for him, their emulation of reverence, boast of much more appears by the verses he writ to him, and therefore than of having diffused and paraphrased this epitome I need speak no farther of it. The first play that of excellence of having changed Dryden's gold for brought Fletcher and him in esteem was their Phibaser metal, of lower value though of greater bulk. laster;' for before that they had written two or three In this, and in all his other essays on the same very unsuccessfully as the like is reported of Ben subject, the criticism of Dryden is the criticism of a Jonson, before he writ Every Man in his Humour.' poet, not a dull collection of theorems, not a rude Their plots were generally more regular than Shakdetection of faults which, perhaps, the censor was not speare's, especially those which were made before able to have committed, but a gay and vigorous Beaumont's death; and they understood and imidissertation, where delight is mingled with instruc- tated the conversation of gentlemen much better; tion, and where the author proves his right of judg-whose wild debaucheries, and quickness of wit in rement by his power of performance.' partees, no poet before them could paint as they have done. Humour, which Ben Jonson derived from particular persons, they made it not their business to describe: they represented all the passions very lively, but above all, love. I am apt to believe the English language in them arrived to its highest perfection: what words have since been taken in, are rather superfluous than ornamental. Their plays are now the most pleasant and frequent entertainments of the stage; two of theirs being acted through the year, for one of Shakspeare's or Jonson's: the reason is, beIt is recorded by Malone, that Dryden's miscel-cause there is a certain gaiety in their comedies, and laneous prose writings were held in high estimation by Edmund Burke, who carefully studied them on account equally of their style and matter, and is thought to have in some degree taken them as the model of his own diction.

'The prose of Dryden,' says Sir Walter Scott, may rank with the best in the English language. It is no less of his own formation than his ver

sification; is equally spirited, and equally harmonious. Without the lengthened and pedantic sentences of Clarendon, it is dignified when dignity is becoming, and is lively without the accumulation of strained and absurd allusions and metaphors, which were unfortunately mistaken for wit by many of the author's contemporaries.'

As specimens of Dryden's prose composition, we here present, in the first place, his characters of some of the most eminent English dramatists.


To begin, then, with Shakspeare. He was the man, who, of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily. When he describes anything, you more than see it you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation. He was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her there. I cannot say he is everywhere alike; were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind. He is many times flat, insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches, his serious swelling into bombast. But he is always great when some great occasion is presented to him; no man can

pathos in their more serious plays, which suits generally with all men's humours. Shakspeare's language is likewise a little obsolete, and Ben Jonson's

wit comes short of theirs.

[Ben Jonson.]

As for Jonson, to whose character I am now arrived, if we look upon him while he was himself (for his last plays were but his dotages), I think him the most learned and judicious writer which any theatre ever had. He was a most severe judge of himself, as well as others. One cannot say he wanted wit, but rather that he was frugal of it. In his works you find little to retrench or alter. Wit, and language, and humour also in some measure, we had before him; but something of art was wanting to the drama, till he came. He managed his strength to more advantage than any who preceded him. You seldom find him making love in any of his scenes, or endeavouring to move the passions; his genius was too sullen and saturnine to do it gracefully, especially when he knew he came after those who had performed both to such a height. Humour was his proper sphere; and in that he delighted most to represent mechanic people. He was deeply conversant in the ancients, both Greek and

1 As the cypress is above surrounding shrubs.

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