Release Date: 01 October 2007
INTRODUCTORY -- NOTE THE age of Elizabetlz, nenorable for so nzany reasons in the history of England, was eispecially brilliant in literature, and, within literature, in the dranla. With some falliftg off in spontaneity, the impulse to great dranzafic Production lasted till the Long Parliatnent closed the theaters in 1642 and wlaen they were reopeaed at the Restoration, in 1660, the stage only too I faithfully reflected the debased noral tone of the court society I of Charles II., John Drydert 1631-IOO, the great vepresentative figure is the literature of the latter part of the seventeenth century, exenz- plijies in his work tzost of the nzain tendencies of the time. He cante into notice with a poem on the death of Cromwell in 1658, and two years later was conlpoiring couplets expressing his loy- alty to the returned king. He married Lady Elizabeth Howard, the daughter of a royalist house, and for practically all the. rest of his life remained an adherent of the Tory Party. It I 1663 he began writing for the stage, and during the next thirty years he atteinpted nearly all the current fowzs of drama. His Annus Mirabilis 1666 celebrating the English naval victories over the Dutch, brought him in 1670 the Poet Laureateship. He Izad, nleantkre, begun the writing of those admirable critical essays, represented in the present series by his Preface to the Fables and his Dedication to the translation of Virgil. In these he shows hinzself not only a critic of sound azd penetrating judgment, but the first nzaster of modern English prme style. With Absalona and Achitoplzel, a satire on the Whig leader, Shaftesbrcry, Dryden entered a new phase, and achieved what is regarded as the finest of allpolitical satires. This was followed by The Medal, again directed against the Whigs, and this by rrMac Flecknoe, a fierce attack on his enemy and rival Shadwell. The Governnzent rewarded his service by a lucrative appointnzent. After triumphing it the three fields of drama, criticism, and satire, Dryden appears next as a religiolcs poet in hk Religio Laici, an exposition of the doctrines of the Church of England from a laynzans point of view. 1 the same year that the Catholic Janes II. ascended the throne, Dryden joined the Roman Chtirch, and two years later defended his new religion ifi Thsr 3 l 4 INTRODUCTION Hind and the Panther, an allegorical debate between two animals standing respectively for Catholicism and Anglicanism The Revolution of 1688 put an end to Drydens prosperity and after a short return to dramnutic conlposition, he turned to translation as a means of supportizg himself. He Jzad already done sometJzing in this line and after a series of translatiotss from Juvenal, Persius, and. Ovid, Jze undertook, at the age of sixty-three, the enornlous tmk of turning the entire works of Virgil into English verse. How he succeeded in this, readers of the Eneid in o companion volume of these classics can judge for themselves. Drydens production closes with the collection of narrative poems called Fables, published in 17m, in which year he died and was buried in the Poets Corner in Westminsttw Abbey. Dryden lived in an age of reaction against excessive religiozts idealisnz, and both his character and his wbrks are nrarked by the sotnewhat unheroic traits of such a period. But he was, on the whole, an honest man, open-minded, genial, candid, and modest the wielder of a style, both inverse and prose, un- matched for clearness, vigor, and sanity...
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