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THE LIFE OF JOHN DRYDEN.

John DRYDEN was born on the 9th of August 1631, at a place variously denominated Aldwincle, or Oldwincle, All Saints ; or at Oldwincle, St Peter's, in Northamptonshire. The name Dryden or Driden, is from the North. There are Drydens still in the town of Scotland where we now write; and the poet's ancestors lived in the county of Cumberland. One of them, named John, removed from a place called Staffhill, to Northamptonshire, where he succeeded to the estate of Canons-Ashby, by marriage with the daughter of Sir John Cope. John Dryden was a schoolmaster, a Puritan, and honoured, it is said, with the friendship of the celebrated Erasmus, after whom he named his son, who succeeded to the estate of Canons-Ashby, and, besides becoming a sheriff of the county of Northamptonshire, was created a knight under James I. Sir Erasmus had three sons, the third of whom, also an Erasmus, became the father of our poet. His mother was Mary, the daughter of the Rev. Henry Pickering, whose father, a zealous Puritan, had been one of the marked victims in the Gunpowder Plot. Dryden thus had connexions both on his father's and mother's side with that party, by deriding, defaming, and opposing which he afterwards gained much of his poetical glory.

The poet was the eldest of fourteen children—four sons and ten daughters. The honour of his birth is claimed, as already stated, by two parishes, that of Oldwincle, All Saints, and that of Oldwincle, St Peter's, as Homer's was of old by seven

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cities. His brothers and sisters have been followed, by eager biographers, into their diverging and deepening paths of obscurity-paths in which we do not choose to attend them. Dryden received the rudiments of his education at Tichmarsh or at Oundle—for here, too, we have conflicting statements. It is certain, however, that he was admitted a king's scholar at Westminster, under the tuition of Dr Busby, whom he always respected, and who discovered in him poetical power. He encouraged him to write, as a Thursday's night's task, a translation of the third Satire of Persius, a writer preVeisely of that vigorously rhetorical, rapidly satirical, and semipoetical school, which Dryden was qualified to appreciate and to mirror; besides other pieces of a similar kind which are lost. During the last year of his residence at Westminster, and when only eighteen years of age, he wrote one among the ninety-eight elegies which were called forth by the sudden death of Henry Lord Hastings, and published under the title of “ Lachrymæ Musarum.” Hastings seems to have been an amiable person, but he was besides a lord, and hinc ille lachryme. We know not of what quality the other tears were, but assuredly Dryden's is one of very suspicious sincerity, and of very little poetical merit. But even the crocodile tears of a great genius, if they fall into a fanciful shape, must be preserved; and we have preserved his, accordingly, notwithstanding the false taste as well as doubtful truth and honesty of this his earliest poem.

Shortly after, Dryden obtained a Westminster scholarship, and on the 11th of May 1650, entered on Trinity College, Cambridge. His tutor was one John Templer, famous then as one of the many who had attempted to put a hook in the jaws of old Hobbes, the Leviathan of his time, but whose reply, as well as Hobbes' own book (like a whale disappearing from a Shetland " voe” into the deep, with all the hooks and harpoons of his enemies along with him) has been almost entirely forgotten. At Cambridge, Dryden was noted for regularity and diligence, and took the degree of B.A. in January 1653-4, and in 1657 was made A.M. by a dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Once, indeed, he was rusti

cated for a fortnight on account of some disobedience to the vice-master. He resided, however, at his university three years after the usual term; and although he did not become a Fellow, and made no secret, in after days, of preferring Oxford to Cambridge, yet the reason of this seems to have lain, not in any personal disgust, but in some other cause, which, says Scott, “ we may now search for in vain.”

Up till June 1654, his father had continued to reside at his estate at Blakesley, in Northamptonshire, when he died, leaving Dryden two-thirds of a property, which was worth, in all, only £60 a-year. The other third was bequeathed to his mother, during her lifetime. With this miserable modicum of £40 a-year, the poet returned to Cambridge, and continued there, doing little, and little known as one who could do anything, till the year 1657. The only records of the diligence of his college years, are the lines on the death of Lord Hastings, and one or two other inconsiderable copies of verses. He probably, however, employed much time in private study.

While at Cambridge, he met with a young lady, a cousin of his own-Honor Driden, daughter of Sir John Driden of Chesterton—of whom he became deeply enamoured. His suit was, however, rejected, although he continued all his life on intimate terms with the family. Miss Driden died unmarried, many years after her poet lover; and like the "Lass of Ballochmyle" with Burns' homage, learned to value it more after he became celebrated, and carefully preserved the solitary letter which Dryden wrote her.

But now the university was to lose, and the world of London to receive, the poet. In the year 1657, when about sixand-twenty years of age, Dryden repaired to London, “ clad in homely drugget," and with more projects in his head than pence in his pocket. He was first employed by his relative, Sir Gilbert Pickering-called the “ Fiery Pickering," from his Roundhead zeal—as a clerk or secretary. Here he came in contact with Cromwell; and saw very clearly those great qualities of sagacity, determination, courage, statesmanship, insight, and genuine godliness, which made him, next to Alfred the

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Great, the first monarch who ever sat on the English throne. Two years after Dryden came to London, Cromwell expired, and the poet wrote and published his Heroic Stanzas on the hero's death, which we consider really his earliest poem. When Richard resigned, Dryden, in common with the majority of the nation, saw that the Roundhead cause was lost, and hastened to carry over his talents to the gaining side. For this we do not blame him very severely, although it certainly had been nobler if, like Milton, he had clung to his party. Sir Walter Scott remarks, that Dryden never retracted the praise he gave to Cromwell. In “ Absalom and Achitophel” he sneers at Richard as Ishbosheth, but says nothing against the deceased giant Saul. It is clear, too, that at first his desertion of the Cromwell party was a loss to the poet. He lost the chance of their favour, in case a reaction should come, his situation as secretary, and the shelter of Pickering's princely mansion. As might have been expected, his ancient friends were indignant at the change, and not less so at the alteration he thought, proper at the same time to make in the spelling of his namefrom Driden to Dryden.

He went to reside in the obscure house of one Herringman, a bookseller, in the New Exchange, and became for life a professional author. His enemies afterwards reproached him bitterly for his mean circumstances at this period of his life, and asserted that he was a mere drudge to Herringman. He, at all events, did little in his own proper poetic calling for two years. A poem on the Coronation of Charles, well fitted to wipe away the stain of Cromwellism, and to attract upon the poet the eye of that Rising-Sun, whose glory he sang with more zeal than truth ; a panegyric on the Lord Chancellor; and a satire on the Dutch; were all, and are all short, and all savour of a vein somewhat hide-bound. He planned, indeed, too, and partly wrote, one or more plays, and was considered of consequence enough to be elected a member of the Royal Society in 1662. Previous to this he had been introduced, through Herringman, to Sir Robert Howard, son of the first Earl of Berkshire, and a relation of Edward Howard, the author of “ British Princes," and the

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