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Matthew Reynolds: Dryden

19 July 2007
The Poems of John DrydenVol. V 1697-1700 
edited by Paul Hammond and David Hopkins.
Longman, 707 pp., £113.99, July 2005, 0 582 49214 9
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DrydenSelected Poems 
edited by Paul Hammond and David Hopkins.
Longman, 856 pp., £19.99, February 2007, 978 1 4058 3545 9
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... Of all the great English poets, Dryden must be the least enjoyed. Once honoured ‘rather in the stiffness than in the strength of his eminence’, he was soon ‘laid carefully away among the heroes’, according to Mark Van Doren, the critic who is still, nearly a century on, the most persuasive of his would-be resurrectors ...
7 September 1995
The Poems of John DrydenVol. I, 1649-1681; Vol. II, 1682-1685 
edited by Paul Hammond.
Longman, 551 pp., £75, February 1995, 0 582 49213 0
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... final couplet as if its awkwardness amused him after the thoughtless pleasure of that first leap. Dryden is also a jumper in, a superb starter. What about the opening of The Hind and the Panther? A Milk white Hind, immortal and unchang’d, Fed on the lawns and in the forest rang’d. Or of Absalom and Achitophel? In pious times, ere priestcraft did ...

Uppish

W.B. Carnochan

23 February 1995
Satire and Sentiment, 1660-1830 
by Claude Rawson.
Cambridge, 309 pp., £40, March 1994, 0 521 38395 1
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... Item: in 1684, there appeared John Oldham’s posthumous Remains in Verse and Prose, with a prefatory elegy by John Dryden, ‘Farewell, too little and too lately known’. Dryden’s poem has been much admired and praised – but not by Claude Rawson, who calls it variously ‘pompous’, ‘self-serving’, ‘overrated’, ‘unctuously self-exalting’, ‘self-promoting’, ‘pontifical’ and ‘patronising’ Item: in a chapter on Richardson (wittily called ‘Richardson, alas’ after ‘Hugo, hélas’), Rawson quotes a curious letter in which the novelist asks a friend to come to Tunbridge Wells, where she will be able to see a figure more ‘grotesque’ even than Beau Nash or Colley Cibber, ‘a sly sinner, creeping along the very edges of the walks, getting behind benches ...

Poet Squab

Claude Rawson

3 March 1988
John Dryden and His World 
by James Anderson Winn..
Yale, 651 pp., £19.95, November 1987, 0 300 02994 2
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John Dryden 
edited by Keith Walker.
Oxford, 967 pp., £22.50, January 1987, 0 19 254192 7
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... There is an anonymous portrait of Dryden, ‘dated 1657 but probably 1662’, which shows a full-fed figure with plump alert eyes, comfortable and predatory. He seems poised between repletion and dyspepsia, like a bewigged Nigel Lawson, arrested for all time at the moment of incipient eructation. James Winn says: ‘His short, squat figure later led his enemies to call him “Poet Squab”, and the plump birdlike face in this picture justifies the nickname ...

Unwritten Masterpiece

Barbara Everett: Dryden’s ‘Hamlet’

4 January 2001
... Dryden of course neither wrote nor adapted a Hamlet. But sometimes negatives, or questions, can say as much as positives. And Dryden is perhaps an odder, a more involved figure than might be surmised from his enormous productivity – from his energy, his directness, his mass and variety of achievement ...

In an Ocean of Elizabeths

Terry Eagleton: Rochester

22 October 2014
Blazing Star: The Life and Times of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
by Alexander Larman.
Head of Zeus, 387 pp., £25, July 2014, 978 1 78185 109 8
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... the real-life Rochester, Alexander Larman provides a workmanlike account of an improvident life. John Wilmot was born in 1647 on All Fools’ Day. His father, one of Charles II’s most stalwart lieutenants, had fought for the king and fled the field with him after the royalist defeat at the battle of Worcester. The two men escaped together to Paris, where ...
20 September 1984
Notes from New York, and Other Poems 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, March 1984, 0 19 211959 1
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The Cargo 
by Neil Rennie.
TNR Productions, 27 pp., January 1984
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Collected Poems 1943-1983 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 383 pp., £14.95, April 1984, 0 85635 498 8
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... took him on their list (induced in the first place – let credit be given where it’s due – by John Press). He insists, and he has the right to insist, that he is as authentic a voice of modern Britain as Philip Larkin is. As some pages of Poetry and Metamorphosis make clear, the Britain that Tomlinson speaks for is one that most of us, gratefully or ...

Fellow Genius

Claude Rawson

5 January 1989
The Poems of John Oldham 
edited by Harold Brooks and Raman Selden.
Oxford, 592 pp., £60, February 1987, 0 19 812456 2
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... Farewel, too little and too lately known,’ Dryden wrote in a pompous, self-serving poem prefixed to John Oldham’s Remains in Verse and Prose (1684). Oldham had died of smallpox the previous December, at the age of 30, at the house of the Earl of Kingston, a young nobleman who had recently become his patron ...
4 May 2016
The Literary Correspondences of the Tonsons 
edited by Stephen Bernard.
Oxford, 386 pp., £95, March 2015, 978 0 19 870085 2
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... by his nephew, of securing the rights to the works of writers such as Shakespeare, Milton and Dryden, and endowing them with the prestige of a national canon. His anthologies of new verse, launched in 1684 as Miscellany Poems … by the Most Eminent Hands, continued for decades and made him an arbiter of modern writing: Alexander Pope made his print debut ...

Very very she

Margaret Anne Doody

22 April 1993
The Works of Aphra Behn. Vol. I: Poetry 
edited by Janet Todd.
Pickering & Chatto, 481 pp., £55, September 1992, 1 85196 012 0
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Oroonoko, The Rover and Other Works 
by Aphra Behn, edited by Janet Todd.
Penguin, 385 pp., £6.99, November 1992, 0 14 043338 4
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... to Restoration literature and Restoration cultural style. We shall not, for instance, understand Dryden well if we do not understand Behn – and Behn proves to be no mere footnote but a writer of vivacity and considerable complexity. Behn has one of the most unclear biographies in English literature. It is very difficult not to mythologise Aphra while ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’

7 October 2015
‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... that J.G.A. Pocock told him that Conrad Russell told him that Bertrand Russell told him that Lord John Russell told him that his father the sixth Duke of Bedford told him that he had heard William Pitt the Younger speak in Parliament during the Napoleonic Wars, and that Pitt had this curious way of talking, a particular mannerism that the sixth Duke of ...

Looking out

C.H. Sisson

18 February 1982
The Public School Revolution: Britain’s Independent Schools, 1964-1979 
by John Rae.
Faber, 188 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 0 571 11789 9
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... When, in 1682, the Reverend Mr Busby, headmaster of Westminster School, expelled or suspended John Dryden’s son, the poet wrote him an excellent letter. Busby had already been at Westminster for more than forty years: he was that terrifying thing, a Great Headmaster. Moreover, Dryden had himself been among his pupils and knew well enough what tricks the old autocrat could get up to ...

Unhoused

Terry Eagleton: Anonymity

22 May 2008
Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature 
by John Mullan.
Faber, 374 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 0 571 19514 5
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... in general. The past itself is alterable, since the future casts it in a new light. Whether John Milton belonged to a species which ended up destroying itself is up to us and our progeny. The future possibilities of Hamlet are part of the play’s meaning, even though they may never be realised. One of the finest English novels, Samuel Richardson’s ...
17 May 1984
Poetry and Metamorphosis 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Cambridge, 97 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 521 24848 5
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Translations 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 120 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 19 211958 3
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Conversation with the Prince 
by Tadeusz Rozewicz, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Anvil, 206 pp., £4.95, March 1982, 0 85646 079 6
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Passions and Impressions 
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 396 pp., £16.50, October 1983, 0 571 12054 7
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An Empty Room 
by Leopold Staff, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £3.25, March 1983, 0 906427 52 5
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... pioneering work, a rich seed which has produced a sacred wood. However, it wasn’t until Dryden’s translation of 1697 that the Aeneid became naturalised as a major English poem. Like Gavin Douglas, Dryden writes out of pride in his nation and his native language, and he aims to create a consolidating, monumental ...

Public Works

David Norbrook

5 June 1986
The Faber Book of Political Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 481 pp., £17.50, May 1986, 0 571 13947 7
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... monarchism is in tension with some proto-republican elements. Paulin’s next major monarchist, John Dryden, seems a less ambiguous figure: ‘Absalom and Achitophel’, which Paulin much admires and prints in full, presents the political debate stirred up by the Whigs as a feverish disease of which the body politic needs to be cured. This nostalgia ...

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