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equal to his success in the blood-stained buskin, Mr Ravenscroft translated and mangled several of the more farcical French comedies, which he decorated with the lustre of his own great name. Ainongst others which he thus appropriated, were the most extravagant and buffoon scenes in Moliere's “ Bourgeois Gentilhomme ;" in which Monsieur Jourdain is, with much absurd ceremony, created a Turkish Paladin ; and where Moliere took the opportunity to introduce an entrée de ballet, danced and sung by the Mufti, dervises, and others, in eastern habits. Ravenscroft's translation, entitļed “ The Citizen turned Gentleman," was acted in 1672, and printed in the same year; the jargon of the songs, like simiJar nonsense of our own day, seems to have been well received on the stage. Dryden, who was not always above feeling indignation at the bad taste and unjust preferences of the age, attacked Ravenscroft in the prologue to “ The Assignation,” as he had before, though less directly, in that of “ Marriage a-la-Mode.” Hence the exuberant and unrepressed joy of that miserable scribbler broke forth upon the damnation of Dryden's performance, in the following passage of a prologue to another of his piltered performances, called “ The Careless Lovers," acted, according to Langbaine, in the vacation succeeding the fall of “ The Assignation," in 1673:
An author did, to please you, let his wit run,
And those plays found a more indulgent fate. Ravenscroft, however, seems to have given the first offence; tur, in the prologue to “ The Citizen turned Gentleman,” licensed 9th
* This looks as if there had been some ground for Dryden's censure upon the actors.
† A flat parody on the lines in Dryden's prologne, referring to Mamay mouchi :
Grimace and habit sent you pleased away : ?
You damned the poet, but cried up the play. It is somewhat remarkable, that the censure contained in what is above printed like verses, recoils upon the head of the author, who never wrote a
August 1672, we find the following lines, obviously levelled at 6 The Conquest of Granada,” and other heroic dramas of our author:
Then shall the knight, that had a knock in's cradle,
Be for at least six months full every day. Langbaine, who quotes the lines from the prologue to Ravenscroft's “ Careless Lovers," is of opinion, that he paid Dryden too great a compliment in admitting the originality of “ The Assignation,” and labours to shew, that the characters are imitated from the “ Romance Comique” of Scarron, and other novels of the time. But Langbaine seems to have been unable to comprehend, that originality consists in the mode of treating a subject, more than in the subject itself.
“ The Assignation” was acted in 1672, and printed in 1673.
single original performance. Langbaine, the persecutor of all plagiarism, though he did not know very well in what it consisted, threatens to “ pull off Ravenscroft's disguise, and discover the politic plagiary that lurks under it. I know," continues the biographer, “he has endeavoured to shew himself master of the art of swift writing, and would persuade the world, that what he writes is extempore wit, and written currente calamo. But I doubt not to shew, that though he would be thought to imitate the silk-worm, that spins its web from its own bowels, yet I shall make him appear like the leech, that lives upon the blood of other men, drawn from the gums; and, when he is rubbed with salt, spews it up again.”
* Sir Martin Mar-all we are acquainted with. Sir Arthur Addle is a similar character, in a play called " Sir Solomon, or, The Cautious Coxcomb, attributed to one John Caryll.
ALY MOST HONOURED FRIEND,
SIR CHARLES SEDLEY, BART*.
The design of dedicating plays is as common and unjust, as that of desiring seconds in a duel. It is
* Sir Charles Sedley, noted among “ the mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease," was so highly applauded for his taste and judgment, that Charles said, “ Nature had given him a patent to be Apollo's viceroy.” Some account has been given of this celebrated courtier, in the introduction to the Essay on Dramatic Poetry. Dryden was at this time particularly induced to al peal to the taste of the first among the gay world, by the repeated censures which had been launched against him from the groves of Acaderne. Mr Malone gives the titles of three pamphlets which had appeared against Dryden. 1. The Censure of the Rota, on Mr Dryden's Conquest of Granada, printed at Oxford. 2. A Description of the Academy of the Athenian Virtuoso, with a discourse held there in vindication of Mr Dryden's Conquest of Granada, against the Author of the Censure of the Rota. 3. A Friendly Vindication of Mr Dryden, from the Author of the Censure of the Rota, printed at Cambridge. Thus assailed by the grave and the learned, censured for the irregularities of his gay patrons, which he countenanced although he did not partake, and stigma
engaging our friends, it may be, in a senseless quarrel, where they have much to venture, without any concernment of their own*. I have declared thus much beforehand, to prevent you from suspicion, that I intend to interest either your judgment or your kindness, in defending the errors of this comedy. It succeeded ill in the representation, against the opinion of many of the best judges of our age, to whom you know I read it, ere it was presented publicly. Whether the fault was in the play itself, or in the lameness of the action, or in the number of its enemies, who came resolved to damn it for the title, I will not now dispute. That would be too like the little satisfaction which an unlucky gamester finds in the relation of every cast by which he came to lose his money. I have had formerly so much success, that the miscarriage of this play was only my giving Fortune her
tized as a detractor of his predecessors, and a defamer of classical learning, it was natural for Dryden to appeal to the most accomplished of those amongst whom he lived, and to whose taste he was but too strongly compelled to adapt his productions. Sedley, therefore, as a man of wit and gallantry, is called upon to support our author against the censures of pedantic severity. Whatever znay be thought of the subject, the appeal is made with all Dryden's spirit and clegance, and his description of the attic evenings spent with Sedley and his gay associates, glosses over, and almost justifies, their occasional irregularities. We have but too often occaşion to notice, with censure, the licentious manners of the giddy court of Charles ; let us not omit its merited commendation. If the talents of the men of parts of that period were often ill-directed, and ill-rewarded, let not us, from whom that gratitude is justly due, forget that they were called forth and stimulated to exertion, by the countenance and applause of the great. We, at least, who enjoy the fruit of these exertions, ought to rejoice, that the courtiers of Charles possessed the taste to countenance and applaud the genius which was too often perverted by the profligacy of their esample, and left unrewarded amid their selfish prodigality.
* At this period, seconds in a duel fought, as well as principals.
revenge; I owed it her, and she was indulgent that she exacted not the payment long before. I will therefore deal more reasonably with you, than any poet has ever done with any patron : I do not so much as oblige you for my sake, to pass two ill hours in reading of my play Think, if you please, that this dedication is only an occasion I have taken, to do myself the greatest honour imaginable with posterity ; that is, to be recorded in the number of those men whom you have favoured with your friendship and esteem. For I am well assured, that, besides the present satisfaction I have, it will gain me the greatest part of my reputation with after ages, when they shall find me valuing myself on your kindness to me; I may have reason to suspect my own credit with them, but I have none to doubt of yours. And they who, perhaps, would forget me in my poems, would remember me in this epistle.
This was the course which has formerly been practised by the poets of that nation, who were masters of the universe. liorace and Ovid, who had little reason to distrust their immortality, yet took occasion to speak with honour of Virgil, Varius, Tibullus, and Propertius, their contemporaries; as if they sought, in the testimony of their friendship, a farther evidence of their fame. For my own part, I, who am the least amongst the poets, have yet the fortune to be honoured with the best patron, and the best friend. For, (to omit some great persons of our court, to whom I am many ways obliged, and who have taken care of me even amidst the exigencies of a war*) I can make my boast to have found a better Mæcenas in the person of my Lord Treasurer Clifford t, and a more elegant Tibullus in
* The second Dutch war, then raging.