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sistence. It is no wonder, therefore, he was among the first to
* Epistle dedicatory to “ Bury-fair," addressed to the Earl of Dorset.
+ See the inscription intended for his monument in Westminster Abbey, by his son Sir John Shadwell, in the Life prefixed to Shadwell's Works. But it was altered before it was placed in the Abbey, and a blonder in the date seems to bave crept in.-Sec Cibber's Lives of the Poets, Vol. III. p. 49.
Heywood and Shirley.-P. 434. Voluminous dramatic authors, who flourished in the beginning of the 17th century. There were no less than four Heywoods who wrote plays; so that, Winstanley says, the name of Heywood seemed to be destinated to the stage. But he whom Dryden here means, is Thomas Heywood, a person rather to be admired for the facility, than for the excellence of his compositions. Every place and situation was alike to him while composing; and the favourite register of his scenes was the back of a tavern bill. Far the greater part of his labours are now lost; and yet there remain, in the libraries of the curious, twenty-four printed plays by Thomas Ileywood. He was an actor by profession, and a good scholar, as is evinced by several of his classical allusions. His plays may be examined with advantage by the antiquary, but afford slender amusement to the lovers of poetry. The following character of him, by an old poet, is preserved by Langbaine :
If we cannot call Heywood a second Lope de Vega, in point of the extent of his dramatic works, he overtops most English authors; since he assures us, in his preface to the “ English Traveller," that it was one reserved among two hundred and twenty plays, in which he had either had “ a whole hand, or, at the least, a main finger.” It is a pity, as Johnson said of Churchill, so fruitful a tree should have borne only crabs.
James Shirley, whom our author most unjustly couples with Heywood, to whom, as well as to Shadwell, he was greatly superior, was born in 1594, and, although for some time a schoolmaster, appears to have lived chiefly by the stage. When the civil wars broke out, he followed the fortune of William, Earl of Newcastle. During the usurpation, when theatres were prohibited, he returned to his original profession of a schoolmaster. He died of fatigue and distress of mind during the great fire of London, in 1666. He wrote forty-two plays, and there are thirtynine in print; a complete set of which is much esteemed by collectors. Dr Farmer has traced, to this neglected bard, an idea, which Milton thought not unworthy of adoption.
" Shirley is spoken of with contempt in “ Mac-Flecknoe,” but his imagination is sometimes fine to an extraordinary degree. I recollect a passage in the Fourth Book of the “ Paradise Lost," which hath been suspected of imitation, as a prettine-s below the genius of Milton : I mean, where Uriel glides backward and forward to heaven on a sun-beam. Dr Newton informs us, that this might possibly be hinted by a picture of Annabal Caracci, in the king of France's cabinet; but I am apt to believe, that Milton had been struck with a portrait in Shirley. Fernando, in the comedy of the “ Brothers," 1652, describes Jacinta at vespers:
Her eye did seem to labour with a tear,
Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare.
Note IV. Coarsely clad in Norwich drugget.-P. 434. This stuff appears to have been sacred to the use of the poorer votaries of Parnassus; and it is somewhat odd, that it seems to have been the dress of our poet himself in the earlier stage of his fortunes. An old gentleman, who corresponded with the “ Gentleman's Magazine,” says, he remembers our author in this dress. Vol. XV.
With well-timed oars, before the royal barge.-P. 434.
band during some entertainment upon the river, an amusement to which King Charles was particularly addicted.
Note VI. The like was ne'er in Epsom blankets tost ---P. 434. This seems to be in ridicule of the following elegant expression which Shadwell puts in the mouth of a fine lady : “ Such a fellow as he deserves to be tossed in a blanket.” This, however, does not occur in “ Epsom-Wells,” but in another of Shadwell's comedies, called “ The Sullen Lovers.”
The lute still trembling underneath thy nail.---P. 434. Shadwell appears to have been a proficient in music, and to have himself adjusted that of his opera of “ Psyche,” which Dryden here treats with such cunsummate contempt. Indeed, in the preface of that choice piece he affected to value himself more upon the music than the poetry, as appears from the following passage in the preface : “I had rather be author of one scene of comedy, like some of Ben Jonson's, than of all the best plays of this kind, that have been, or ever shall be written; good comedy requiring much more wit and judgment in the writer, than any rhiming, unnatural plays can do. This I have so little valued, that I have not altered six lines in it since it was first written, which (except the songs at the marriage of Psyche, in the last scene) was all done sixteen months since. In all the words which are sung, I did not so much take care of the wit or fancy of them, as the making of them proper for music; in which I cannot but have some little knowledge, having been bred, for many years of
my youth, to some performance in it.
“ I chalked out the way to the composer, (in all but the song of Furies and Devils, in the fifth act,) liaving designed which line I would have sung by one, which by two, which by three, which by four voices, &c. and what manner of humour I would have in all the vocal music."
Not even the feet of thy own Psyche's rhyme,
Though they in number as in scnse excel.-P. 435. This unfortunate opera was imitated from the French of Moliere, and finished, as Shadwell assures us, in the space of five weeks. The author having no talents for poetry, and no ear for versification, “ Psyche" is one of the most contemptible of the frivolous dramatic class to which it belongs. It was, however, got up with extreme magnificence, and received much applause on its first appearance, in 1675. To justify the censure of Dryden, it is only necessary to quote a few of the verses, taken at random as a specimen, of what he afterwards calls “ Prince Nicander's vein :" Nicander. Madam, I to this solitude am come,
Humbly from you to hear my latest doom.
Was, that you should not see me here ;
Much harsher will to you appear.
How long of scorn and cruelty complain?
Your eyes enough have wounded me,
You need not add your cruelty.
Who am defenceless against each you use. The poet himself seems so conscious of the sad inferiority of his verses, that he makes, in the preface, a half apology, implying a mortifying consciousness, that it was necessary to anticipate condemnation, by pleading guilty. “ In a thing written in five weeks, as this was, there must needs be many errors, which I desire true critics to pass by; and which, perhaps, I see myself, but having much business, and indulging myself with some pleasure too, I have not had leisure to mend them; nor would it indeed be worth the pains, since there are so many splendid objects in the play, and such variety of diversion, as will not give the audience leave to mind the writing; and I doubt not but the candid reader will forgive the faults, when he considers, that the great design was to entertain the town with variety of music, curious dancing, splendid scenes, and machines; and that I do not, nor ever did intend, to value myself upon the writing of this play.”
Shadwell, however, had no right to plead, that this affected contempt of his own lyric poetry ought to have disarmed the criticism of Dryden; because, in the very same preface, he sets out by insinuating, that he could easily have beaten our author on his own strong ground of rhyme, had he thought such a contest worth winning. So much, at least, may be inferred from the following declaration :
“ In a good-natured country, I doubt not but this, my first essay in rhyme, would be at least forgiven, especially when promise to offend no more in this kind ; but I am sensible that here I must encounter a great many difficulties. In the first place, (though I expect more candour from the best writers in rhyme,) the more moderate of them (who have yet a numerous party, VOL, X,