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sublimity. The conception of Philidel, a fallen angel, retaining some of the hue of heaven, who is touched with repentance, and not without hope of being finally received, is an idea, so far as I know, altogether original. Klopstock has since introduced a similar character into sacred poetry t. The principal incident in “ King Arthur” is copied, in almost every circumstance, from the adventures of Rinaldo in the haunted grove on Mount Olivet I, which makes also the subject of an Italian opera.
From what is mentioned in the author's preface, we may conceive the disadvantages under which“ King Arthur” was finally brought forward. It was written originally for the conclusion of the reign of Charles II, and the political masque of “ Albion and Albanius” was often rehearsed before him, as the prologue to King Arthur." We may therefore conclude, that the piece, as originally written, had a strong political tendency, and probably abounded with these ingenious parallels, by which Dryden, with dexterity far exceeding that of every other writer, could draw, from remote or distant events, a moral directly applicable to those of his own time. But the Revolution, while it ruined our author's prospects, imposed a cautious restraint upon his muse; and therefore, as he himself states, he was obliged to deprive his play of many beauties, not to offend the present times, or displease a government by which he had hitherto been protected, or at least endured. Thus, our author was obliged to convert an ingenious, and probably highly poetical political drama, into a mere fairy tale, as totally divested as possible of any meaning beyond extravagant adventure. How much the drama must have suffered in this transformation is easy to judge, from the spirit with which all Dryden's political pieces are composed ; and from recollecting with what reluctance he must have gone through alterations, that were to deprive the play of what was intended to have been its principal merit. This is the disadvantage of which the poet had already complained :
How can he show his manhood, when you bind him
+ The author acknowledges, with gratitude, the opinion of his " first and best patroness, the duchess of Monmouth,” which, to the author of " Absalow and Achitophel,” must have excited a strange mixture of recollections and emotions. The judgment of that accomplished lady alleged the fairy kind of writing, which depends only on the force of imagination, as thc grounds for liking a piece which has that chiefly to recommend it.
* Tasso's “ Gierusaleme Liberata."
The blockhead stands excused for want of sense,
Prologue to Amphitryoni.
Under all these disadvantages, “ King Arthur” was received with great applause, at its first appearalice; was often repeated, and continues to be occasionally represented, being the only one of Dryden's numerous plays which has retained possession of the stage. Some part of its success was doubtless owing to the music, of which Dr Burney gives the following account in his “ History of Music:"
“Of the music in “ King Arthur," I shall say but little, as it has been lately revived, well performed, and printed. If ever it could, with truth, be said of a composer, that he had devancé son siecle, Purcell is entitled to that praise; as there are movements in many of his works which a century has not injured, particularly the duet in “ King Arthur," “ Two Daughters of this Aged Stream,” and “ Fairest Isle, all Isles excelling,” which contain not a single passage that the best composers of the present times, if it presented itself to their imagination, would reject.” vol. iii.
The dances, which were composed by the famous Priest, did not disgrace the music and poetry; and the company, according to Downes, were well rewarded for the time and expence they had bestowed on
This poem was the last piece of service which I had the honour to do for ny gracious master King Charles II.; and, though he lived not to see the performance of it on the stage, yet the Prologue to it, which was the opera of “ Albion and Albanius," was often practised before him at Whitehall, and
* We have often occasion, in these notes, to mention the Marquis of Halifax. He was originally Sir George Saville, Baronet; but, being early characterized by unmatched dexterity in political intrigue, he successively attained the rank of Viscount, Earl, and, in 1682, Marquis of Halifax. He acted alternately for the people against the Crown, and for the Crown against the people ; for he delighted in nice and delicate strokes of policy, and in balancing, by a slight but well-applied exertion, the sinking against the rising faction.
Hence he was accounted the head of the little faction called Trimmers; and hence his counsels became particularly acceptable to Charles II., whose administration he guided, as Lord Privy Seal, during the last years of that monarch's life. The king had no mind that the high-flying tories should attain an VOL, VIII.
encouraged by his royal approbation. It was indeed a time which was proper for triumph, when he had overcome all those difficulties which, for some years, had perplexed his peaceful reign: but,
absolute predominance; for he feared his brother, who had placed himself at their head, and he loved Monmouth, who was the object of their most violent hatred. Still less could he be supposed to favour the whigs, whose ranks contained many determined republicans. A minister, therefore, whose ingenious and versatile councils could enable him to check the triumph of the tories, without too much encouraging the whigs, was a treasure to him,and just such a minister was Halifax. Our author therefore dedicates to him, with great propriety, a piece written for Charles, when Halifax was his favourite minister; and the subjects of eulogium are chosen with Dryden's usuai felicity. Some allowance must doubtless be made, for the indispensible obligation which compelled a dedicator to view the conduct of his patron on the favourable side. Such an unfortunate wight cannot be reasonably tied down to uniformity of sentiment in different addresses. The character of Dryden's immediate patron was always his cue for praise : if he stood forward against a predominant party, he was necessarily Cato, the most virtuous of men; if he yielded to the torrent, he was Phocion or Cicero, and Cato was a foul to him. With the few grains of allowance which his situation required, Dryden's praise of Halifax is an honest panegyric. It is certain, his wisdom prevented a civil war in the last years of the reign of Charles, and indirectly led the way to a bloodless revolution. The age in which he lived was therefore so far indebted to him, as our author has elegantly said, for the lives of husbands and of children, for property unviolated, and wealth undiminished. Nor the present owe him less; for, when is it that a government, erected by a party successful in civil dissention, does not far exceed their just, and even their original pretensions ? The parties had each founded their plea and their pretensions upon sacred and integral parts of the constitution, as the contending factions of the Jews occupied, the one the temple, and the other the palace of Jerusalem. In a civil war, one bulwark or other must have fallen with the party which it sheltered; and it was only the Revolution of 1688, which, leaving both whig and tory in full strength, compelled them mutually to respect the constitutional vantage-ground assumed by each other.
when he had just restored his people to their senses, and made the latter end of his government of a piece with the happy beginning of it, he was on the sudden snatched away from the blessings and acclamations of his subjects, who arrived so late to the knowledge of him, that they had but just time enough to desire him longer, before they were to part with him for ever. Peace be with the ashes of so good a king! Let his human frailties be forgotten, and his clemency and moderation (the inherent virtues of his family) be remembered with a grateful veneration by three kingdoms, through which he spread the blessings of them. And, as your lordship held a principal place in his esteem, and, perhaps, the first in his affection, during his latter troubles, the success which accompanied those prudent counsels 'cannot but reflect an honour on those few who managed them, and wrought out, by their faithfulness and diligence, the public safety. I might dilate on the difficulties which attended that undertaking, the temper of the people, the power, arts and interest of the contrary party, but those are all of them invidious topics,--they are too green in our remembrance, and he, who touches on them, Incedit per ignes suppositos cineri doloso. But, without reproaching one side to praise another, I may justly recommend to both those wholesome counsels, which, wisely administered, and as well executed, were the means of preventing a civil war, and of extinguishing a growing fire which was just ready to have broken forth among us. wives, who have yet their husbands in their arms; so many parents, who have not the number of their children lessened; so many villages, towns and cities, whose inhabitants are not decreased, their
property violated, or their wealth diminished, --are yet owing to the sober conduct, and happy results of