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But don't believe him. Horace's Epistles, though in verse, are genuine letters, brisk, unequal in movement, always unstudied, natural. Nothing is further from Dryden than this original and thorough man of the world, philosophical and lewd, this most refined and most nervous of epicureans, this kinsman (at eighteen centuries' distance) of Alfred de Musset and Voltaire. Like Horace, an author must be a thinker and a man of the world to write agreeable morality, and Dryden was no more than his contemporaries either a man of the world or a thinker. But other characteristics, as eminently English, sustain him. Suddenly, in the midst of the yawns which these Epistles occasioned, our eyes are arrested. A true accent, new ideas, are brought out. Dryden, writing to his
peace the people, and the prince in war. Consuls of moderate power in calms were made;
When the Gauls came, one sole dictator sway'd.
Patriots, in peace, assert the people's right, With noble stubbornness resisting might; No lawless mandates from the court receive. Nor lend by force, but in a body give." * This serious converse shows a political mind, fed on the spectacle of affairs, having in the matter of public and prac tical debates the superiority which the French have in speculative discussions and social conversation. So, amidst the dryness of polemics break forth sudden splendors, a poetic fount, a prayer from the heart's depths; the English well of concentrated passion is on a sudden opened again with a flow and a spirit which Dryden does not elsewhere exhibit :
cousin, a country gentleman, has light-"Dim as the borrow'd beams of moon and ed on an English original subject. depicts the life of a rural squire, the referee of his neighbors, who shuns lawsuits and town doctors, who keeps himself in health by hunting and exercise. sere is his portrait:
How bless'd is he, who leads a country life, Unvex'd with anxious cares, and void of strife!...
With crowds attended of your ancient race, You seek the champaign sports, or sylvan chase;
With well-breathed beagles you surround the wood,
Even then industrious of the common good;
Like felons, where they did the murderous deed.
This fiery game your active youth maintain'd;
Not yet by years extinguish'd though restrain'd:...
A patriot both the king and country serves;
When both are full, they feed our bless'd
Like those that water'd once the paradise of
Some overpoise of sway, by turns, they share;
*What Augustus says about Horace is charming, but cannot be quoted, even in Latin.
To lonely, weary, wand'ring travellers,
Was lent, not to assure our doubtful way,
So pale grows Reason at Religion's sight,
"But, gracious God! how well dost thou pro.
toration, Dryden found his way to the grave emotions of the inner life; though a Romanist, he felt like a Protestant the wretchedness of an and the presence of grace: he was capable of enthusiasm. Here and there a manly and soul-stirring verse discloses, in the midst of his reasonings, the power of conception and the inspiration of desire. When the tragic is met with, he takes to it as to his own domain; at need, he deals in the horrible. He has described the infernal chase, and the torture of the young girl worried by dogs, with the savage energy of Milton.* As a contrast, he loved nature: this taste always endures in England; the sombre, re4ective passions are unstrung in the grand peace and harmony of the fields. Landscapes are to be met wit amidst theological disputation:
"New blossoms flourish and new flowers
As God had been abroad, and walking there
The wured brooks appeared with liquid
As last they heard the foolish Cuckoo sing, Whose note proclaimed the holy day of spring." t
Under his regular versification the artist's soul is brought to light; though contracted by habits of classical argument, though stiffened by controversy and polemics, though unable to create souls or to depict artless and delicate sentiments, he is a genuine poet: he is troubled, raised by beautiful sounds and forms; he writes boldly under the pressure of vehement ideas; he surrounds himself willingly with splendid images; he is moved by the buzzing of their swarms, the glitter of their splendors; he is, when he
* Theodore and Honoria, xi. 435.
+ The Hind and the Panther, Part iii. 7. $53-560, X. 214.
"For her the weeping heavens become serene,
For her the ground is clad in cheerful green,
For her the nightingales are taught to sing, And nature fo: her has delayed the spring.'
These charming verses on the Duchess of
wishes it, a musician and a painter, he writes stirring airs, which shake all the senses, even if they do not sink deep into the heart. Such is his Alexander's Feast, an ode in honor of St. Cecilia's day, an admirable trumpetblast, in which metre and sound impress upon the nerves the emotions of the mind, a master-piece of rapture and of art, which Victor Hugo alone has come up to.* Alexander is on his throne in the palace of Persepolis; the lovely Thais sate by his side; before him, in a vast hall, his glorious captains. And Timotheus sings:
"The praise of Bacchus, then, the sweet musi-
Of Bacchus ever fair, and ever young.
He shews his honest face.
Now, give the hautboys breath; he comes,
Bacchus ever fair and young,
Sweet the pleasure;
Sweet is pleasure after pain."
And at the stirring sounds the king is
Break his bands of sleep asunder,
Hark, hark! the horrid sound
See the snakes, that they rear,
And the sparkles that flash from their eyes!
Each a torch in his hand!
Those are Grecian ghosts, that in battle were
And unburied remain
Behold how they toss their torches on high,
* For instance, in the Chant du Cirque.
And glittering temples of their hostile |
The princes applaud, with a furious joy. And the king seized a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
Thais led the way,
Thus formerly music softened, exalted,
genius, liable to be misconstrued in al I write; and my judges, if they are not very equitable, already prejudiced against me, by the lying character which has been given them of my mor. als." Although he looked at his conduct from the most favorable point been worthy, and that all his writings of view, he knew that it had not always
would not endure. Born between two
epochs, he had oscillated between two forms of life and two forms of thought having reached the perfection of nei
having discovered in surrounding man ners no support worthy of his charac ter, and in surrounding ideas no subject worthy of his talent. If he had founded criticism and good style, this criticism had only its scope in pedantic treatises or unconnected prefaces; this good style continued out of the track in inflated tragedies, dispersed over multiplied translations, scattered in occa. sional pieces, in odes written to order, in party poems, meeting only here and there an afflatus capable of employing it, and a subject capable of sustaining it. What gigantic efforts to end in such a moderate result! This is the natural condition of man. The end of every thing is pain and agony. For a long time gravel and gout left him no peace; erysipelas seized one of his legs. In April 1700 he tried to go out; "a slight inflammation in one of his toes became from neglect, a gangrene;" the doctor would have tried amputation, but Dryden decided that what remained to him of health and happiness was not worth the pain He died at the age of sixty-nine,
This was one of his last works; †ther, having kept the faults of both brilliant and poetical, it was born amidst the greatest sadness. The king for whom he had written was deposed and in exile; the religion which he had embraced was despised and oppressed; a Roman Catholic and a royalist, he was bound to a conquered party, which the nation resentfully and distrustfully considered as the natural enemy of liberty and reason. He had lost the two places which were his support; he lived wretchedly, burdened with a family, obliged to support his sons abroad; treated as a hireling by a coarse publisher forced to ask him for money to pay for a watch which he could not get on credit, beseeching Lord Bolingbroke to protect him against Tonson's insults, rated by this shopkeeper when the promised page was not finished on the stated day. His enemies persecuted him with pamphlets; the severe Collier lashed his comedies unfeelingly; he was damned without pity, but conscientiously. He had long been in ill health, crippled, constrained to write much, reduced to exaggerate flattery in order to earn from the great the indispensable money which the publishers would not give him: + "What Virgil wrote in the vigor of his age, in plenty and at ease, I have undertaken to translate in my declining years; struggling with wants, oppressed with sickness, curbed in my
Alexander's Feast, xi. 183-188. WITH the constitution of 1688 a new Alexander's Feast was written in 1697, spirit appears in England. soon after the publication of the Virgil. In Slowly, 1699 appeared Dryden's translated tales and gradually, the moral revolution accomorignal poems, generally known as "The Fa-panies the social: man changes with bles," in which the portrait of the English the state, in the same sense and for the country-gentleman (see page 65) is to be found. same causes; character moulds self
He was paid two hundred and fifty guineas for ten thousand lines.
*Postscript of Virgil's Works, as transcated by Dryden, xv. p. 187.
to the situation; and little by little, in manners and in literature, we see spring up a serious, reflective, moral spirit, capable of discipline and independence, which can alone maintain and give effect to a constitution.
incapable of motion or thought, lying in the kennel, whom the care of the passers-by alone could prevent from being smothered in mud, or run over by carriage wheels. A tax was imposed to stop this madness: it was in vain the judges dared not condemn, the informers were assassinated. The House This was not achieved without diffi-threatened with a riot, withdrew his gave way, and Walpole, finding himself culty, and at first sight it seems as law.* All these bewigged and ermined though England had gained nothing by lawyers, these bishops in lace, these this revolution of which she is so embroidered and gold-bedizened lords, proud. The aspect of things under this fine government so cleverly bal William, Anne, and the first two anced, was carried on the back of a Georges, is repulsive. We are tempted huge and formidable brute, which as a to agree with Swift in his judgment, to rule would tramp peacefully though say that if he has depicted a Yahoo, it growlingly on, but which on a sudden, is because he has seen him; naked or for a mere whim, could shake and drawn in his carriage, the Yahoo is not crush it. This was clearly seen in 1780, beautiful. We see but corruption in during the riots of Lord George Gornigh places, brutality in low, a band of don. Without reason or guidance at intriguers leading a mob of brutes. The the cry of No Popery the excited mob human beast, inflamed by political demolished the prisons, let loose the passions, gives vent to cries and vio- criminals, abused the Peers, and was lence, burns Admiral Byng in effigy, for three days master of London, burndemands his death, would destroy his ing, pillaging, and glutting itself. house and park, sways in turns from Barrels of gin were staved in and made party to party, seems with its blind rivers in the streets. Children and force ready to annihilate civil society. women on their knees drank themselves When Dr. Sacheverell was tried, the to death. Some became mad, others butcher boys, crossing-sweepers, chim- fell down besotted, and the burning ney-sweepers, costermongers, drabs, the and falling houses killed them, and entire scum, conceiving the Church to buried them under their ruins. Eleven be in danger, follow him with yells of years later, at Birmingham, the people rage and enthusiasm, and in the even-sacked and gutted the houses of the ing set to work to burn and pillage the Liberals and Dissenters, and were dissenter's chapels. When Lord Bute, found next day in heaps, dead drunk, in defiance of public opinion, was set in the roads and ditches. When inup in Pitt's place, he was assailed with stinct rebels in this over-strong and stones, and was obliged to surround his well-fed race it becomes perilous. John carriage with a strong guard. At Bull dashed headlong at the first red every political crisis was heard a riotrag I which he thought he saw. Dus growl, were seen disorder, blows, broken heads. It was worse when the estimable than the lower. The higher ranks were even less If there people's own interests were at stake. has been no more beneficial revolution Gin had been discovered in 1684, and than that of 1688, there has been none about half a century later England con- that was launched or supported by suned seven millions of gallons.* The dirtier means. Treachery was every. tavernkeepers on their signboards in- where, not simple, but double and vited people to come and get drunk for triple. Under William and Anne, ada penny; for twopence they might get mirals, ministers, members of the dead drunk; no charge for straw; the Privy Council, favorites of the antelandlord dragged those who succumbed chamber, corresponded and conspired into a cellar, where they slept off their carouse. A man could not walk London streets without meeting wretches, 1742, Report of Lord Lonsdale.
In be present inflamed temper of the people, the Act could not be carried into execu tian without an urned force.-Speech of Sir Robert Walpole
with the same Stuarts whom they had your vote, and here is a bank-bill of two sold, only to sell them again, with a thousand pounds,' which he put into complication of bargains, each destroy- his hands. The member made him this ing the last, and a complication of per- answer: 'Sir Robert, you have lately juries, each surpassing the last, until in served some of my particular friends; the end no one knew who had bought and when my wife was last at court, the Lim, or to what party he belonged. King was very gracious to her, which The greatest general of the age, the must have happened at your instance. Duke of Marlborough, is one of the I should therefore think myself very basest rogues in history, supported by ungrateful (putting the bank-bill into his mistresses, a niggard user of the his pocket) if I were to refuse the pay which he received from them, favor you are now pleased to ask systematically plundering his soldiers, me.' " This is how a man of the trafficking on political secrets, a traitor world did business. Corruption was to James II., to William, to England, so firmly established in public man betraying to James the intended planners and in politics, that after the of attacking Brest, and even, when old fall of Walpole, Lord Bute, who and infirm, walking from the public had denounced him, was obliged rooms in Bath to his lodgings, on a cold to practise and increase it. His coland dark night, to save sixpence in league Henry Fox, the first Lord chair-hire. Next to him we may place Holland, changed the pay-office into a Bolingbroke, a skeptic and cynic, market, haggled about their price with minister in turn to Queen and Pretend- hundreds of members, distributed in er, disloyal alike to both, a trafficker one morning twenty-five thousand in consciences,marriages, and promises, pounds. Votes were only to be had who had squandered his talents in de- for cash down, and yet at an important bauch and intrigue, to end in disgrace, crisis these mercenaries threatened to impotence, and scorn.* Walpole, who go over to the enemy, struck for wages, used to boast that "every man had his and demanded more. Nor did the price," was compelled to resign, after leaders miss their own share. They having been prime minister for twenty sold themselves for, or paid themselves years. Montesquieu wrote in 1729: with, titles, dignities, sinecures. In order to get a place vacant, they gave the holder a pension of two, three, five, and even seven thousand a year. Pitt, the most upright of politicians, the leader of those who were called patriots, gave and broke his word, attacked or defended Walpole, proposed war or peace, all to become or to continue a minister. Fox, his rival, was a sort of shameless sink. The Duke of Newcastle, "whose name
There are Scotch members who have only two hundred pounds for their vote, and sell it at this price. Englishmen are no longer worthy of their liberty. They sell it to the king; and if the king should sell it back to them, they would sell it him again." We read in Bubb Doddington's Diary the candid fashion and pretty contrivances of this great traffic. So Dr. King states: "He (Walpole) wanted to carry a question in the House of Commons, to which he knew there would be great opposition. .. As he was passing through the Court of Requests, he met a member of the conrary pay whose avarice, he imagined, would not reject a large bribe. He took him aside, and said, 'Such a question comes on this day; give me * See Walpole's terrible speech gainst him,
See, for the truth of this statement, Memoirs of Horace Walpole, 2 vols., ed. E. Warburton, 1851, i. 381, note.-Tr.
Notes during a journey in England made in 1739 with Lord Chesterfield.
was perfidy," "a living, moving, talking caricature," the most clumsy, ignorant, ridiculed and despised of the aristocracy, was in the Cabinct for thirty years and premier for ten years, by virtue of his connections, his wealth, of the elections which he managed, and the places in his gift. The fall of the Stuarts put the government into the hands of a few great families which, by means of rotten boroughs, bought members and high-sounding speeches, oppressed the king, moulded the pas * Dr. W. King, Political and Literary An ecdotes of his own Times, 1818, 27.