by George Saintsbury

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First published in 1881, this biography examines the role of John Dryden (1631–1700) in reforming English literature.See more details below


First published in 1881, this biography examines the role of John Dryden (1631–1700) in reforming English literature.

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New York, Harper & brothers
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CHAPTER III. PERIOD OF DRAMATIC ACTIVITY. Tiikiik are not many portions of English literature which lmvo boon treated with greater severity by critics than the EiMtontioo drama, and of the Restoration dramatists few Iiavo mot with less favour, in proportion to their general lilomry eminence, than Dryden. Of his comedies, in par- liiMiliir, fow Imve been found to say a good word. His Ktiiriliiwl, i'lminpion, Scott, dismisses them as " heavy;" Haz- litl, u ilcfcmlor of the Restoration comedy in general, finds litl.ln in Uioiii but " ribaldry and extravagance;" and I have lul.cly nomi thoin spoken of with a shudder as "horrible." Tho trni.ilii' Imvo fared better, but not much better; and Iliim tlio roinnrknblo spectacle is presented of a general Ininili'iiiimtioii, varied only by the faintest praise, of the work to which an admitted master of English devoted, iilnnml. i'xi'liinivoly, twenty years of the flower of his man- lininl, No i.inii|iliili. is ilio oblivion into which these dramas li'ii ii i ill. n. Unit n lias Iniriod in its folds the always charm- Inn iinil minii'liiiii'M exquisite songs which they contain. |i'm.ii|i|, In I'niiijri'vc'N iwo editions, and in the bulky edi- Hi.n ni Mi'nll, I ii.vilrn':i ihoniiv U unattainable, and thus the ".ii"illv uT i'riiilorB lmvo but little opportunity of correct- liniii Individual study, tlio unfnvourablo impressions . .1 ii.'in Mi.. M'nliola of the critics. For myself, I amChap, in.] PERIOD OF DRAMATIC ACTIVITY. 39 very far from considering Dryden's dramatic work as on a level with his purely poetical work. But, as nearly always happens, and as happened, by a curious coincidence, in the case of his editor, the fact that he didsomething else much better has obscured the fact that he did this thing in not a few instances very we...

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