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SECULAR MASQUE, & EPILOGUE,
REVIVED FOR DRYDEN'S BENEFIT, IN 1700.
SECULAR MASQUE, AND EPILOGUE,
REVIVED FOR DRYDEN'S BENEFIT, IN 1700.
Our Author's connection with the Theatre only ended with his life. The pieces, which follow, have reference to the performance of “ The Pilgrim," a play of Beaumont and Fletcher, which was revived in 1700. Vanburgh, a lively comic writer, who seems to have looked up to Dryden with that veneration which was his due, added some light touches of humour, to adapt this play to the taste of the age. The aged poet himself furnished a Prologue and Epilogue, a Song, and Secular Masque; and, with these additions, the piece was performed for the benefit of Dryden.
It seems dubious, whether the kind intentions of Vanburgh and the players actually took effect in favour of our author himself, or in that of his son. It is certain, that, if he did not die before the representation, he did not survive it many weeks, as the play* was not published till after his death.
Mr Malone supposes the play to have been acted on the 25th March, 1700; Dryden died on the 1st of May following. The play was advertised for publication in the London Gazette of 17th June, 1700. The following is the full title :
“ The Pilgrim, a Comedy, as it is acted at the Theatre-royal in Drurylane, written originally by Mr Fletcher, and now very much altered, with several additions ; likewise, a Prologue, Epilogue, Dialogue, and Masque, written by the late great poet, Mr Dryden, just before his death, being the last of his works. Printed for Benjamin Tooke, near the Middle Temple Gate, in Fleet-street. 1700."
In the published copy our author is mentioned as dead :" Governor. I hope before you go, sir, you'll share with us an entertainment, the late great
But his lamp burned bright to the close. The Prologue and Epilogue, written within a few weeks of his death, equal any thing of the kind which he ever produced. He combats his two enemies, Blackmore and Collier, with his usual spirit; but with manliness concedes, that they had attacked him in one vulnerable and indefensible particular, where he lay open, less from any peculiar depravity in his own taste, than from compliance with the general licence of the
age. Cibber informs us, that Sir John Vanburgh, who cast the parts, being pleased with the young actor's moderation, in contenting himself with those of the Stuttering Cook, and Mad Englishman, assigned him also the creditable task of speaking the Epilogue, which, as it was so much above the ordinary strain, highly gratified his vanity. Dryden himself, on hearing Cibber recite it, made him the further compliment of trusting him with the Prologue also ; an honourable distinction, which drew upon him the jealousy of the other actors, and the indignation of Wilkes in particular. This revival of “ The Pilgrim” was also remarkable, as affording Mrs Oldfield, who had been about a year or more a mute on the stage, an opportunity of attracting public attention in the character of Alinda, which suited the want of confidence natural to her inex. perience, and in which she afforded that promise of future excellence, which was afterwards so amply fulfilled.
poet of our age prepared to celebrate this day.” But this, as Mr Malone observes, was probably an addition, after Dryden's death had taken place. Gildon, in his “ Comparison between the Stages," seems to say that the play was performed for the benefit of Dryden's son; probably, because in his father's extreme illness, or upon his death, his son would naturally draw the profits. On the whole, it seems probable, that Dryden survived the performance of the play; as it is presumable that “ The Secular Masque,” being intended to solemnise the supposed termination of the century, was brought out as soon as possible in the new year.