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restore the living, and his pen embalm the dead. ---And so much for, Mr. Dryden; whose burial was the same as his life, variety, and not of a piece:- The quality and mob, farce and heroicks; the sublime and ridicule mixed in a piece ;great Cleopatra in a hackney coach."*
That Dryden was so superstitious, as not only to put faith in judicial astrology, but to practise that vain and ridiculous art, is admitted by his most zealous admirers.
Of this we have a long and remarkable account given by Mrs. Thomas, who was intimate with Dryden, and who declares that she had the par. ticulars from his wife. The account is as follows:
“ When Dryden's lady was in labour with his son Charles, he being told it was decent to withdraw, laid bis watch on the table, begging one of the ladies then present, in a most solemn manner, to take exact notice of the very minute the child was born, which she did. About a week after, wiien his lady was pretty well recovered, Mr. Dryden took occasion to tell her that he had been calculating the child's nativity, and observed with grief, “that he was born in an evil hour, for Jupiter, Venus, and the Sun, were all under the Earth, and the lord of his ascendant afflicted with a hateful square of Mars and Saturn. If he lives to arrive at his eighth year, says he, he will go
* This alludes to Mrs. Barry, the actress who was in the procession.
near to die a violent death on his very birth-day, but if he should escape, as I see but small hopes, be will, in the twenty-third year be under the very same evil direction, and if he should escape that also, the thirty-third, or thirty-fourth year is, I fear-_'here he was interrupted by the grief of his lady, who could no longer hear calamity prophesied to befal her son, The time at last came, and August was the inauspicious month in which
young Dryden was to enter into the eighth year of his age. The court being in progress, and Mr. Dryden at leisure, he was invited to the country seat of the Earl of Berkshire, his brother-in-law, to keep his long vacation with him at Charlton, in Wiltshire; his lady was invited to her uncle Mordaunt's to pass the remainder of the summer. When they came to divide the children, Lady Elizabeth would have had him to take John, and suffer her to take Charles; but Mr. Dryden was too absolute, and they parted in anger ; he took Charles with him and she was obliged to be content with John. When the fatal day came, the anxiety of the lady's spirits occasioned such an effervescence of blood, as threw her into so violent a fever, that her life was despaired of, till a letter came from Mr. Dryden, reproving her for her womanish credulity,* and assuring her that her child was well,
* This is absurd enough, for lier ladyship's credulity was natural, it having been foolishly raised by Dryden hiinself.
which recovered her spirits, and in six weeks after she received an eclaircissement of the whole affair. Mr. Dryden, either through fear of being reckoned superstitious, or thinking it a science beneath his study, was extremely cautious of letting any one know that he was a dealer in astrology; therefore would not excuse his absence, on his son's anniversary, from a general hunting match Lord Berkshire had made to which all the adjacent gentlemen were invited. When he went out, he took care to set the boy a double exercise in the Latin tongue, which he taught his children himself, with a strict charge not to stir out of the room till his return; well knowing the task he had set him would take up a longer time. Charles was performing his duty, in obedience to his father, but as ill fate would have it, the stag made towards the house ; and the noise alarming the servants, they hasted out to see the sport. One of them took young Dryden by the hand, and led him out to see it also, when, just as they came to the
gate, the stag being at bay with the dogs, made a bold push and leaped over the court wall; which was very low and very old ; and the dogs following, threw down a part of the wall ten yards, in length, under which Charles Dryden lay buried. He was immediately dug out, and after six weeks languishing in a dangerous way, he recovered; so far Dryden's prediction was fulfilled : in the twenty-third year of his age, Charles fell from the X 3
top of an old tower belonging to the Vatican at Rome, occasioned by a swimming in his head, with which he was seized, the heat of the day being ex. cessive. He again recovered, but was ever after in a languishing sickly state. In the thirty-third year of his age, being returned to England, he was unhappily drowned at Windsor. He had with another gentleman swam twice over the Thames ; but returning a third time, it was supposed he was taken with the cramp, because he called out for help too late. Thus the father's calculation proved but too prophetical.”
Such is the story which Mr. Malone examines with his wonted acuteness, and disproves in many of its parts; still he allows that Dryden was weak enough to confide in the science of astrology, in which he was countenanced by some distinguished men of the last age: and it is extremely probable says he, that he predicted at the birth of his eldest son that some calamity would happen to him in his eighth and twenty-eighth year, and that both his predictions were fortuitously fulfilled. We know from his letter to him; written in September, 1697, that he had calculated his nativity ; and he has himself told us, that every thing to that time, had happened according to his prediction : from other passages it may be collected, that Charles Dryden had suffered much by some accidental fall at Rome: and a tradition is yet préserved in the family, that on the poet's death, his eldest son found in his pocket-book the ho
toscope in which several of the calamities of his life were predicted. *
One of Dryden's greatest friends was the Earl of Dorset, of whose liberality to him Jacob relates the following instance: speaking of Tom Brown, he says, " towards the latter part of his life I am informed he was in favour with the Earl of Dorset, who invited him to dinner on a Christmas day, with Mr. Dryden, and some other gentlemen famous for learning and ingenuity, (according to his lordship's custom) when Mr. Brown to his agreeable surprize found a bank note of fifty pounds under his plate, and Mr. Dryden at the same time was presented with another of one hundred pounds.
In his private character Dryden seems to have been of a placid disposition, and rather diffident; but according to Congreve he was friendly and good-natured, easy of access, and very ready to be reconciled after a quarrel. His favourite amusement in the country was angling, and he was proud of his skill in that sport. When in London be frequented Will's Coffee-house, Covent-garden, so much as almost to be taken for an inbabitant of it. In consequence of this, that house became the common place of assembly
* Life of Dryden, p. 420.
Jacob's Historical Account of English Poets, Svo 1720, p. 16.