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Fed with soft dedication all day long,
He paid some bards with port, and some with praise.t
DR. YOUNG'S parasites and flatterers are painted with equal humour, and a generous contempt of servility:
Who'd be a crutch to prop a rotten peer;
The poverty of Butler is often mentioned among the distresses of poets as a reproach to his age, and particularly to Charles II. who was so fond of Hudibras. But Dr. Pearce, the late Bishop of Rochester, related, that Mr. Lowndes, then belonging to the Treasury, and in the reigns of King William and Queen Anne, Secretary to it, assured him, that, by order of King Charles II. he had paid to Butler a yearly pension of 1001. to the time of his decease. After having been in many important offices, and an Ambassador at Paris, Prior had, at one time of his life, nothing left but the income of his fellowship of St. John's College, Cambridge. Bufo is said to mean Lord Halifax.
† Ver. 231.
Who'd be a glass, with flattering grimace,
To loll, or thump it for his better ease;
Or a vile butt, for noon or night bespoke,
When the peer rashly swears he'll club his joke?
For blessings to the Gods profoundly bow
That can cry chimney-sweep, or drive a plough?
22. Dryden alone* (what wonder?) came not nigh;
Alluding to the subscription that was made for his funeral. Garth spoke an oration over him. His necessities obliged him to produce (besides many other poetical pieces) twenty-seven plays in twenty-five years. He got 251. for the copy, and 701. for his benefits generally. Dramatic poetry was certainly not his talent. His plays, a very few passages excepted, are insufferably unnatural. It is remarkable, that he did not scruple to confess, that he could not relish the pathos and simplicity of Euripides. When he published his fables, Tonson agreed to give him two hundred and sixty-eight pounds for ten thousand verses. And, to complete the full number of lines stipulated for, he gave the bookseller the epistle to his cousin, and the celebrated music ode. "Old Jacob Tonson used to say, that Dryden was a little jealous of rivals. He would compliment Crown when a play of his failed, but was very cold to him if he met with success. He sometimes used to say that Crown had some genius; but then he added always, that his father and Crown's mother were very well acquainted," Mr. Pope to Mr. Spence,
But still, the great have kindness in reserve;
Our poet, with true gratitude, has seized every opportunity of shewing his reverence for his great master, Dryden; whom Swift as constantly depreciated and maligned. "I do affirm, (says he, severely, but with exquisite irony indeed, in the Dedication of the Tale of a Tub to Prince Posterity,) upon the word of a sincere man, that there is now actually in being a certain poet, called John Dryden, whose translation of Virgil was lately printed in a large folio, wellbound, and, if diligent search were made, for aught I know, is yet to be seen." And he attacks him again in the Battle of Books. SHAFTESBURY is also very fond of petulantly carping at Dryden. "To see the incorrigibleness of our poets, in their pedantic manner, (says he, vol. iii. p. 276,) their vanity, defiance of criticism, their rhodomontade, and poetical bravado, we need only turn to our famous poet-laureat, the very Mr. BAYS himself, in one of his latest and most valued
* Ver. 245.
valued pieces, Don Sebastian,* writ many years after the ingenious author of the Rehearsal had drawn his picture." Shaftesbury's resentment was excited by the admirable poem of Absalom and Achitophel; and particularly by four lines in it, that related to Lord Ashley, his father:
And all to leave, what with his toil he won,
The dramatic works of Lope de Vega make twenty-six volumes, besides four hundred scriptural dramatic pieces, his Autos Sacramentales. His biographer affirms, that he often finished a play in twenty-four hours; nay, some of his come dies in less than five. He wrote during his life 21,316,000
+ I remember to have heard my father say, that Mr. Elijah Fenton, who was his intimate friend, and had been his master, informed him, that Dryden, upon seeing some of Swift's earliest verses, said to him, " Young man, you will never be a poet :" And that this was the cause of Swift's rooted aversion to Dryden, mentioned above. Baucis and Philemon was so much and so often altered, at the instigation of Addison, who mentioned this circumstance to my father, at Magdalen College, that not above eight lines remain as they originally stood. The violence of party disputes never interrupted the sincere friendship that subsisted between Swift and Addison, though of such opposite tempers as well as principles.
But Dryden's works will remain when the Characteristics will be forgotten.
23. Blest be the Great for those they take away,
Of all thy blameless life, the sole return
My verse, and Queensb'ry weeping o'er thy urn !*
The sweetness and simplicity of GAY's tem per and manners, much endeared him to all his acquaintance, and made them always speak of him with particular fondness and attachment. He wrote with neatness, and terseness, æquali quâdam mediocritate, but certainly without any elevation; frequently without any spirit. TRIVIA † appears to be the best of his poems, in T
which are many strokes of genuine humour and pictures of London-life, which are now become curious, because our manners, as well as our dresses, have been so much altered and changed within
* Ver. 255.
+ The fable of Cloacina is indelicate. I should think this was one of the hints given him by Swift, who himself was indebted, for many strokes in his Gulliver, to Bishop Godwin's Man in the Moon, or Voyage of Domingo Gonzales, 1638.