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The first edition of each piece has in general been followed: but here also some deviation was necessary; for on collating the second edition of the Essay OF DRAMATICK Poesy printed in 1684, with the first of 1668, I found that the author had corrected it with great care. From his revised copy, therefore, that Essay has been printed. In a Letter to his bookseller he mentions, that, previously to his Translation of Virgil being sent a second time to
he had spent nine days in reviewing it. As it was probable therefore, that some alterations and amendments were made in the Essays prefixed to that work, (though I now believe his revision was confined to the poetry,) I thought it safest, in printing those Essays, to follow the second edition ; here, however, as well as in the former instance, availing myself occasionally of such aid as the earlier copies afforded, by which some literal errours of the press, both in those Dissertations and the Dramatick Essay, have been corrected. Of every other piece in these volumes the first edition has been followed, excepting only the Defence of that Essay; of which the original copy is so rare, that I have never met with it.
Of Dryden's Letters, very few of which have ever been printed, I wished to form as ample a collection as could be procured ; and am highly indebted to William Baker, Esq., Representative in Parliament for the county of Hertford, who most
obligingly has furnished me with all the correspondence, now extant, which passed between our author and his bookseller, Jacob Tonson, from whom these papers descended to that gentleman : which, beside exhibiting a lively portrait of this great poet, contain some curious documents respecting the price of his works, and some other interesting particulars concerning them. To this series I have added a letter written in his youth to Mrs. Honour Driden, from the original in the hands of the Rev. Mr. Blakeway, of Shrewsbury ; a letter to John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, from a manuscript copy in the Museum ; one to Samuel Pepys, Esq., from the original in the Pepysian Collection in Magdalene College, Cambridge ; one to Charles Montague, afterwards Earl of Halifax, from the original in my possession ; and sixteen letters addressed, at a late period of life, to his kinswoman, Mrs. Steward, or her husband; which have been obligingly communicated to me by her grand-daughter, Mrs. Gwillim, of Whitchurch, near Ross, in Herefordshire, by the hands of Mrs. Ord, of Queen Anne-street. Some others have been found scattered in miscellaneous volumes; and many more, I have no doubt, are in the possession of various persons, which might easily be discovered, if they would but search their family papers. With the hope that such an examination
be made, I shall give, in a subsequent page, a list of those persons in whose cabinets Dryden's letters are likely to be found.
My warmest acknowledgments are also due to my friend James Bindley, Esq. First Commissioner in the Stamp-Office, whose urbanity, classical taste, and various knowledge, are only exceeded by his great liberality in the communication of the very curious materials for literary history, and the illustration of temporary allusions, which his valuable library contains. By the aid of some very rare tracts and poems in his possession, several of which are wanting in my own Collection, I have been enabled to throw some new light on our author's history, as well as on many of his writings; as I have more particularly mentioned in the proper places.-I have also to express my acknowledgments to the Lord Bishop of Salisbury and the Lord Bishop of Peterborough, for the facility and aid which they very readily afforded to my researches in their respective dioceses ; and to request that the various Clergymen in Northamptonshire, in Wiltshire, in Oxford, and in Cambridge, to whom I have had occasion to apply, will accept my sincere thanks for the very obliging attention they were pleased to pay to my inquiries, concerning each of which they furnished me with the most satisfactory information. The present Lady Dryden also, great grand-daughter of Erasmus Dryden, the poet's younger brother, and widow of the late Sir John Turner Dryden, Bart. will, I hope, allow me thus publickly to thank her for having taken the trouble to inspect her family papers, by which the precise value of our author's Northamptonshire estate has been ascertained. Zealous to contribute every aid in her power to illustrate the history of her great kinsman, this lady entered with ardour on the inquiry which I took the liberty to suggest to her, and pursued it with such diligence and sagacity as to remove all doubt on a point of some importance, which had eluded the researches of all his biographers.
On reviewing the received accounts of his Life and Writings, I found so much inaccuracy and uncertainty, that I soon resolved to take nothing upon trust, but to consider the subject as wholly new; and I have had abundant reason to be satisfied with my determination on this head; for by inquiries and researches in every quarter where information was likely to be obtained, I have procured more materials than my most sanguine expectations had promised; which, if they do not exhibit so many particulars concerning this great poet as could be desired, have yet furnished us with some curious and interesting notices, and cleared away much confusion and errour; and enabled me to ascertain several circumstances of his life and fortunes, which were either unknown, or for almost a century the subject of uncertain speculation and conjecture.
The Prose of Dryden has been so long and so justly admired for its copiousness, harmony, rich
ness, and variety, that to adduce any testimony in its favour seems unnecessary. To the high eulogy of Congreve on this head, which will be found in a subsequent page, and the printed encomiums of Dr. Warton,' Mr. Mason, and Dr. Beattie, I may however add the authority of the late Mr. Burke, who had very diligently read all his miscellaneous Essays, which he held in high estimation, not only for the instruction which they contain, but on account of the rich and numerous prose in which that instruction is conveyed. On the language of Dryden, on which perhaps his own style was originally in some measure formed, I have often heard him expatiate with great admiration ; and if the works of Burke be examined with this view, he will, I believe, be found more nearly to resemble this great author than any other English writer. *
Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, 8vo. 1782, vol. ii. pp. 8, 403.
· Works of Sir J. Reynolds, 8vo. 1798, vol.iii. p. 216. 3 Essays on Poetry, &c. 8vo. 1778, pp. 16,-533.
4 See particularly a passage in the beginning of Dryden's Discourse on Satire, vol. iii. p. 75:—" It is true I have one privilege,” &c. which has a strong resemblance to the style of Mr. Burke. I may add, that Dr. Johnson's general character of Dryden's writings in p. xvi," His works abound with knowlerlge," to " " intellectual wealth,” might be justly affixed as a motto to the volumes of Burke.