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Enchanted Ground

Enchanted Ground: Reimagining John Dryden

Jayne Lewis
Maximillian E. Novak
  • Book Info
    Enchanted Ground
    Book Description:

    At the time of his death in 1700, John Dryden was acknowledged as England's greatest writer, his reputation even rivaling that of Shakespeare. Certainly, whether considered as a poet, a dramatist, or as a critic, Dryden far outstripped his contemporaries in the sheer scope and variety of his literary production. The amazing versatility of his pen was matched only by the transformational energy that shapes individual works, from heroic dramas to great satires.

    ForEnchanted Ground, Jayne Lewis and Maximillian E. Novak have brought together many of the world's experts on Dryden, and their essays reflect a range of new, uniquely twenty-first-century views of him. The book is divided into two sections. The first explores Dryden's role as a public poet who had made himself the voice of the restored Stuart court. The second considers Dryden's relationship to the arts and particularly to the past and to Shakespeare.

    Dryden was a poet for all ages. These essays provide fresh readings of Dryden and bring scholarship on him fully up-to-date.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7440-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. xi-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-28)

    When John Dryden died on 1 May 1700, few would have contested the proposition that he had been the greatest poet of the last forty years of the century. He was given a glorious funeral. His body was put on display at the College of Physicians, and on 13 May a procession of approximately fifty coaches made their way to Westminster Abbey to see him interred in that enchanted ground between the poets Geoffrey Chaucer and Abraham Cowley. A magnificent eulogy was pronounced by Samuel Garth, one of the leading poets of the end of the century, and a chorus...


    • chapter one Dryden and the Consumption of History
      (pp. 31-51)

      Perhaps Dryden’s most famous statement about history – it is certainly his most quoted – is the passage from his ‘Life of Plutarch’ in which he lays out his theory of historical parallel. History, he says, ‘helps us to judge of what will happen by showing us the like revolutions of former times ... [because] nothing can come to pass, but some President of the like nature has already been produc’d.’ Men and women can therefore ‘apply examples, arid by them foretell, that from the like Counsels will probably succeed the like events ... [a]nd thereby ... [we can] be...

    • chapter two Dryden, Marvell, and the Design of Political Poetry
      (pp. 52-69)

      Some thirty or forty years ago, literary scholars were still doing backflips trying to fit political satire – that notoriously allusive genre – into the canons of New Criticism, which demanded that lasting poetic value should be judged by the internal dynamics and ‘tensions’ of a poem rather than any relation to the world in which it appeared. Since then, an appreciation for the historical context of literature of all sorts has become more widespread in interpretive circles. Few would today presume to make purely architectonic and aesthetic readings of poems, especially those of the Restoration, so many of which...

    • chapter three Dryden and Dissent
      (pp. 70-90)

      The Hind and the Pantheris a work haunted by violence, an allegory through whose many cracks violence leaks out. The two titular figures, despite their courtesy, wage war by words; their animal kingdom is ever a world of aggression, malice, and cunning, where bloody religious factions are filled with hate and vengeance. Within Dryden’s interpolated tales, the Fable of the Swallows and the Fable of the Pigeons, the final brutality and horror linger well beyond the telling. What violence lies at the core of the poem may not be masked by the patina of fable; it is elemental and...

    • chapter four The Politics of Pastoral Retreat: Dryden’s Poem to His Cousin
      (pp. 91-110)

      Months before he died, Dryden told a correspondent that his recently publishedFables Ancient and Modern(1700) was being judged by some readers his best work yet, especially the volume’s two original poems. Dryden himself agreed with ‘the greater part’ that his ‘verses to my Cousin Driden were the best of the whole,’ and he seems to have agreed as well that ‘I never writt better.’¹ ‘To My Honour’d Kinsman’ is a poem of consummate mastery, its structure densely elegant, its tone exquisitelv modulated to meet the shifting needs of its argumentative purpose. Generically the poem draws deeply on a...

    • chapter five Dryden’s Emergence as a Political Satirist
      (pp. 111-126)

      John Dryden’s first salvo of political satire to hit its mark was casual, yet it nearly cost him his life at the end of 1679 when he was beaten in Rose Alley. To a Tory play calledThe Loyal General, Dryden contributed a Prologue containing some unguarded lines on the City Whigs. The lines compare the anti-Yorkist rally at Guildhall three months earlier to a riot by apprentices, at the same time belittling the Whigs’ petitioning drive that would climax on 11 December by calling it a ‘libel for the public good.’ The Prologue begins as follows:

      If yet there...

    • chapter six The Political Economy of All for Love
      (pp. 127-146)

      I will begin at what may seem a rather unexpected point in British theatrical history. The reason for this is that the following essay falls into two parts. Like theatre-goers from 1677 until the end of the eighteenth century, I believe thatAll for Loveis Dryden’s greatest play. A measure of its greatness is that it is not only powerful theatre in its own right, but perfectly expresses a series of decisions by its author, for entirely local political reasons, to shape the play deliberately to mark its departure from the theatrical tradition – less from Shakespeare (despite Dryden’s...

    • chapter seven Wit, Politics, and Religion: Dryden and Gibbon
      (pp. 147-170)

      At the beginning of a new millennium, it is appropriate to consider Dryden’s poetry in a broad, world-historical context. Part of what I have always loved about Dryden is his eagerness to engage both large ideas and the exigencies of his own immediate historical situation. Today, I propose to consider Dryden’s longest poem,The Hind and the Panther, a poem about the grand clashes between church and state, but also a poem very much engaged in the immediate moment of the political crisis caused by James II’s efforts to return England to Roman Catholicism. In the interest of suitably millennial...

    • chapter eight How Many Religions Did John Dryden Have?
      (pp. 171-182)

      ‘My Condition, and my being a Secular Person ... are look’d upon as Circumstances that may advantage an Author that is to write upon such a Subject as I have handled. I need not tell you, that as to Religious Books in general, it has been observ’d, that those penn’d by Lay-men, and especially Gentlemen, have ... been better entertain’d, and more effectual than those of Ecclesiasticks.’¹ If these words seem familiar to students of Dryden’s writing, there is a good reason why they should: ‘In the first place, if it be objected to me that being aLayman, I...


    • chapter nine Anxious Comparisons in John Dryden’s Troilus and Cressida
      (pp. 185-202)

      During the early spring of 1679, in the febrile atmosphere of the Popish Plot, John Dryden publishedTroilus and Cressida,or,Truth Found Too Late, the third (and last) of his Shakespearean adaptations. Much of the criticism has focused on the question of topical political allusion in Dryden’s play, with Michael Dobson’s view that Dryden ’smuggle[d] a guarded royalist polemic onto the stage of the Duke’s Theatre’ under the cover of revising Shakespeare’s work being typical of this approach.¹ Over the past decades, Dryden scholars have debated the extent of the political parallels in hisTroilus and Cressida, with some...

    • chapter ten Dryden and the Canon: Absorbing and Rejecting the Burden of the Past
      (pp. 203-225)

      Dryden’s last major poetic work,Fables Ancient and Modern(1700), opens with a poem addressed to his patron’s wife, the duchess of Ormond. Since the first fable to follow will be a translation of ‘The Knight’s Tale,’ Dryden, naturally, begins by praising Chaucer. For now, I would like to call your attention to the name-dropping:

      The Bard who first adorn’d our Native Tongue

      Tun’d to hisBritishLyre this ancient Song:

      WhichHomermight without a Blush reherse,

      And leaves a doubtful Palm inVirgil’s, Verse:

      He match’d their Beauties, where thy most excell;

      Of Love sung better, and of...

    • chapter eleven ‘Betwixt two Ages cast’: Theatrical Dryden
      (pp. 226-243)

      It is easy to forget amidst postmodern incarnations of Dryden that he was, to use that shopworn but nonetheless apt phrase, the consummate ‘man of the theatre,’ and his ease with performance put him in a singular position among Restoration dramatists. No other playwright in the period is so closely associated with every aspect of production, from scene design, to casting, to rehearsal. In part, Dryden’s affinity for collaboration can be explained by his good nature: he enjoyed the camaraderie of the theatre, as well as the company of men and women who knew their craft.¹ The collaborative impulse in...

    • chapter twelve Dryden’s Baroque Dramaturgy: The Case of Aureng-Zebe
      (pp. 244-272)

      I suspect thatAureng-Zebe’scritical reputation has never fully recovered from Harley Granville-Barker’s charge that ‘a true dramatist would not have attempted the thing at all,’ for its actions are ‘mechanical from beginning to end,’ its characters possessed of ‘little dramatic life,’ and the considerable ‘virtues’ of its writing undramatic, even anti-dramatic.’¹ To be sure, critics have published more generous and insightful appraisals since, but many of these have applauded the play’s virtues (particularly as a species of heroic literature) while leaving unanswered the question of whether those virtues are antidramatic.² My aim is to demonstrate thatAureng-Zebeis every...

    • chapter thirteen ‘The Rationall Spirituall Part’: Dryden and Purcell’s Baroque King Arthur
      (pp. 273-289)

      In early winter of 1691 the poet John Dryden (then old and famous, though out of favour) ‘ghost-wrote’ for the young composer Henry Purcell a prose dedication for the latter’s published score,The Vocal and Instrumental Mustek of THE PROPHETESS, OR THE HISTORY OF DIOCI£ SIAN. Existing in a manuscript in Dryden’s hand and in the shorter version that was printed (presumably later), the essay reveals conceptual affinities between the two artists, including a view of the collaboration of poetry and music. The two arts are ‘acknowledgd Sisters’: ‘As poetry is the harmony of words, so musick is that of...

    • chapter fourteen Dryden’s Songs
      (pp. 290-317)

      ‘No man hath written in our Language so much, and so various Matter, and in so various Manners, so well,’ wrote William Congreve of his friend John Dryden. ‘If he had written nothing but his Prefaces, or nothing but his Songs, or his Prologues, each of them would have intituled him to the Preference and Distinction of excelling in his Kind.’¹ That Congreve, writing in 1717, should have remembered Dryden’s excellence as a writer of songs is a striking fact – and a sad contrast to the neglect in which the songs languish today. Dryden used songs in twenty-three of...

    • chapter fifteen ‘Thy Lovers were all untrue’: Sexual Overreaching in the Heroic Plays and Alexander’s Feast
      (pp. 318-336)

      At the very end of the 1700Secular Masque, at the very close of Dryden’s writing life, Momus points in turn to the three deities who define the three stages of the century, forcing the entire company to conclude ‘’Tis well an Old Age is out, /And time to begin a New.’¹ These words resonate across future fins de siècle down to the present; like other papers in this volume, my own commentary on these lines was occasioned by a conference entitled ‘An Old Age Is Out.’ Momus divides the seventeenth century into three periods and a hiatus, so that...

  9. Index
    (pp. 337-344)