Dryden the Public Writer, 1660-1685

Dryden the Public Writer, 1660-1685

GEORGE McFADDEN
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x13bn
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    Dryden the Public Writer, 1660-1685
    Book Description:

    This reinterpretation of Dryden's life and works shows how his writings were influenced by important contemporaries, the power struggles of Restoration politics, and the friendships and rivalries of society. Professor McFadden sees Dryden's poems, plays, and essays as forms of address immediately related to the historical moment and the patron or dedicatee. This approach created a dialogue between the writer and his age that enabled him to interpret some of the deepest and still inchoate social and political attitudes of his day.

    The author traces Dryden's rise to notoriety, along with the development of the poetic techniques he used to acquire and form his audience. Dryden's work for the theater figures prominently in the analysis, including the prologues, epilogues, and especially the dedications, which have never before been exploited.

    Historical and biographical findings lead Professor McFadden to new readings of major works, lie also draws important conclusions bearing upon the genre of the heroic play, the relationships between lampoon, satire, and comedy in Restoration writing, and the sense in which the term "Augustan" may be applied to that writing. Finally, he demonstrates that Dryden was a writer in the fullest contemporary sense of the word: a worker in language, carrying on a creative exchange with the contingencies and forms of his time.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7022-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
    George McFadden
  4. BOOKS AND PERIODICALS FREQUENTLY CITED
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-20)

    Dryden’s critical attitude toward success and failure prevented him from being merely immersed in the life of his time; a sense of pressing need to begin afresh, because he was cut off from his inheritance, could be cited as his central impulse. It would help to account for many things in his career and work—from his attachment to James Stuart, the threatened heir, to his strange manipulations of the Jacob and Esau image. It is not my wish, though, to give a psychological concentration to the present study, but rather to inquire into the extraordinarily integrated range of writing...

  6. PART ONE DRYDEN THE POET
    • CHAPTER ONE DRYDEN’S EARLY ATTITUDES TOWARD POLITICS AND THE HEROIC
      (pp. 23-58)

      Because some members of Dryden’s family had antiroyalist or Puritan associations, his early political sentiments have often been guessed at, with results in direct conflict with the evidence of his own writing. The boy John left his Northamptonshire home very early in his teens, on a King’s Scholarship to Westminster School in London. There he lived for several highly formative years under the influence of the staunchly royalist master, Dr. Richard Busby. When King Charles I was executed in 1649, John Dryden was in his last year at Westminster; and as the King mounted the scaffold, Dryden and the other...

    • CHAPTER TWO THE CONTROVERSY WITH SIR ROBERT HOWARD
      (pp. 59-87)

      In all of his earlier political addresses one could, perhaps, fail to single out a clear-cut statement of allegiance on Dryden’s part; one might argue that he was merely following a literary preference while feathering his own nest. In 1667 this situation changed radically. He was compelled to make a choice for or against the heroic in actual political life and not only in poetry.

      In the political crisis of 1667 the atmosphere was fatal to heroes. The events of that spring and summer, when the Dutch not only swept the Channel but entered inland waters to capture, scuttle, or...

    • CHAPTER THREE DRYDEN AND HIS BETTERS
      (pp. 88-110)

      Even before he took the public offices of Laureate and Historiographer, Dryden had accepted the prevailing rationale that included poetry, and especially the epic and the drama, among the civilizing arts in the service of the master art of politics. He was convinced that it was part of his function to develop models of human behavior, or “characters,” which would be worthy of imitation by the leading men and women of the Court and nation. He drew these characters largely from literary tradition, partly from his own imagination, but also (he asserted) from traits that he observed in real men...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Dryden among the Courtiers
      (pp. 111-138)

      Early in 1672, feeling the need to vindicate himself from the satire ofThe Rehearsal,Dryden printed “An Essay of Heroic Plays” and “A Defence of the Epilogue,” along with the text of both parts ofThe Conquest of Granada.His contemporaries found the “Essay” unexciting, as is the usual fate of literary theory; the “Defence of the Epilogue,” however, poured oil on the fires of controversy lit byThe Rehearsal.To Dryden, the question under debate was whether Jonson’s and Shakespeare’s language expressed a more valid range of social experience than his and his contemporaries’. This range included the...

    • CHAPTER FIVE AMONG THE WITS
      (pp. 139-180)

      Financially, as has been shown, 1672 was the first of a series of seven lean years for Dryden. Economic distress partly explains the unusually defensive tone of the dozen prologues and epilogues that, aside fromThe Assignation, Amboyna,their dedications, and the prose apparatus that went withThe Conquest of Granada,are all Dryden had to show for the years betweenMarriage a-la-Modeand the end of 1675¹—his “most barren period,” as George R. Noyes called it. Even when, more than two years after the fire, the company opened its rebuilt theatre, he was still far from happy, as...

  7. PART TWO THE SUCCESSION CRISIS AND ITS CRITIC
    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 181-182)

      The latter part of the reign of Charles II has always been recognized as probably the most significant period for the development of parliamentary and party politics. The period, a century later, of the American and French revolutions was no doubt of greater practical importance; but in the ideological sphere the originality of the English political imagination was as great as their commercial energy and industrial inventiveness was in the economic world. England was the first nation to generate the notion of a public as an articulated political entity to be represented, to be informed, to be responsible to. Writing...

    • CHAPTER SIX AURENG-ZEBE: THE CHARACTER OF A LOYAL SUCCESSOR
      (pp. 183-202)

      AfterThe Conquest of Granada,Dryden took almost six years to produce a serious drama,Aureng-Zebe(November 1675). The play is as skillful a composite of heroic motifs in character, story, and ethos as one can find among the “tragedies” of the Restoration theatre. However, Dryden was now intent less upon exploiting old structures of dramatic action than upon developing new structures of dramatic feeling. Of these latter, perhaps the most important development is in the new conception of the hero and the heroine as victims of politics, rather than triumphant practitioners. The truth seems to have been that the...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN ON STAGE: SOPHOCLES, SHAKESPEARE, THE POPISH PLOT
      (pp. 203-226)

      The five years that followed the premiere ofAll For Lovemay well have been the most significant period in the history of English politics. Between 1678 and 1683 two parties arose and took names as Whigs and Tories; the continuance of a traditional constitution was assured; the seeds of the peaceful Revolution of 1688 were planted; excess of religious bigotry, instead of leading to armed conflict, helped produce a reaction toward the almost completely secularized state of the next century. Dryden, while playing a leading part in these developments, continued to nourish his political writing upon his activity for...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL
      (pp. 227-264)

      The new political factor that emerged in 1680 was Charles’s statement that Exclusion was the one accommodation that he would refuse to make, backed up at last by convincing evidence that he might keep his word. Resisting the flood of addresses and petitions for another election of the Commons and a new Parliament, the King began to speak privately of his determination to live on his normal revenue. To economize, he spent the whole summer at Windsor. Monmouth, on the contrary, was the object of extravagant hospitality as he made a “progress” like a reigning monarch’s through the west of...

    • CHAPTER NINE THE AUGUSTAN INTERLUDE (1683–1684)
      (pp. 265-300)

      Something like a Saturnian revival germinated, at least in the English imagination, in the years just after the uproar of 1678–1683, and added “Good King Charles’s Golden Days” to the legends of Merry England. Thomas Durfey’s “New Market Song” for 1683 makes the claim: “The Golden Age is come; / The winter storms are gone.” This imagery of calm after storm was employed by Halifax in a famous passage ofThe Character of a Trimmer,and by Dryden too, in a little-known rejoinder—as we shall see.

      Charles was taking steps toward a consolidation of the universal ease Durfey...

  8. INDEX
    (pp. 301-306)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-307)