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EPISTLE THE FIRST.
TO HIS FRIEND
THESE verses were rescued from oblivion by Mr Malone, ha. ving escaped the notice of Dryden's former editors. I have disposed them among the Epistles, that being the title which the author seems usually to have given to those copies of verses, which he sent to his friends upon their publications, and which, according to the custom of the time, were prefixed to the works to which they related. They form the second of our author's attempts at poetry hitherto discovered, the “ Elegy upon Lord Hastings" being the first. The lines are distinguished by the hard and rugged versification, and strained conceit, which characterised English
poetry before the Restoration. The title of Hoddesdon's book is a sufficiently odd one: “ Sion and Parnassus, or Epigrams on several Texts of the Old and New Testaments," 8vo, 1650. Dryden was then a student in Trinity College, Cambridge, and about eighteen years old. The nature of the volume which called forth his poetical approbation, may lead us to suppose, that, at this time, he retained the puritanical principles in which he was doubtless educated. The verses are subscribed, J. Dryden of Trin. C.
EPISTLE THE FIRST.
Thou hast inspired me with thy soul, and I,
EPISTLE THE SECOND.
TO MY HONOURED FRIEND
SIR ROBERT HOWARD,
This epistle was prefixed to Sir Robert Howard's poems, printed for Herringman, 12mo, 1660, and entered in the Stationers' books on 16th April that year. It was probably written about the commencement of Dryden's intimacy with the author, whose sister he afterwards married. Sir Robert Howard, son to the Earl of Berkshire, a man of quality, a wit, and a cavalier, was able to extend effectual patronage to a rising author ; and so willing to do it, that he is even said to have received Dryden into his own house. These lines, therefore, make part of Dryden's grateful acknowledgments, of which more may be found in the prefatory letter to the “ Annus Mirabilis," addressed to Sir Robert Howard.* The friendship of the brother poets was afterwards suspended for some time, in consequence of Sir Robert's strictures on the “ Essay on Dramatic Poetry,” and Dryden's contemptuous refutation of his criticism. But there is reason to believe, that this interval of coldness was of short duration ; and that, if the warmth of their ori
*“ I am so many ways obliged to you, and so little able to return your favours, that, like those who owe too much, I can only live by getting farther into your debt. You have not only been careful of my fortune, which was the effect of your nobleness, but you have been solicitous of my reputation, which is that of your kindness."
ginal intimacy was never renewed, they resumed the usual kindly intercourse of relations and friends. The epistle itself is earlier in date than the poem
called “ Astrea Redux," which was probably not published till the summer of 1660 was somewhat advanced. This copy of verses, therefore, is the first avowed production of our author after the Restoration, and may rank, in place and merit, with “ Astrea Redux," the “ Poem on the Coronation," and the “ Address to the Chancellor.” There is the same anxiety to turn and point every sentence, and the same tendency to extravagant and unnatural conceit. Yet it is sometimes difficult to avoid admiring the strength of the author's mind, even when employed in wresting ideas the wrong way. It is remarkable, also, that Dryden ventures to praise the verses of his patron, on account of that absence of extravagant metaphor, and that sobriety of poetic composition, for which, to judge by his own immediate practice, he ought rather to have censured them,
Those who may be induced to peruse the works of Sir Robert Howard, by the high commendation here bestowed upon them. will have more reason to praise the gratitude of our author, than the justice of his panegyric. They are productions of a most freezing mediocrity.
EPISTLE THE SECOND.
As there is music uninform’d by art
* Used for elaborate composition. † Some of Sir Robert Howard's songs were set to music. One of them, beginning, “O Charon, gentle Charon," is quoted as a popular air in one of Shadwell's plays.