Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network

   Home - Science Experiments - Things Worth Knowing - Wise Facts - Curious Facts

Dryden Drubbed

"Dryden," says Leigh Hunt, "is identified with the neighbourhood of
Covent Garden. He presided in the chair at Russell Street (Will's
Coffee-house); his plays came out in the theatre at the other end of it;
he lived in Gerrard Street, which is not far off; and, alas for the
anti-climax! he was beaten by hired bravos in Rose Street, now called
Rose Alley. The outrage perpetrated upon the sacred shoulders of the
poet was the work of Lord Rochester, and originated in a mistake not
creditable to that would-be great man and dastardly debauchee." Dryden,
it seems, obtained the reputation of being the author of the Essay on
Satire, in which Lord Rochester was severely dealt with, and which
was, in reality, written by Lord Mulgrave, afterwards the Duke of
Buckinghamshire. Rochester meditated on the innocent Dryden a base and
cowardly revenge, and thus coolly expressed his intent in one of his
letters: "You write me word that I am out of favour with a certain poet,
whom I have admired for the disproportion of him and his attributes. He
is a rarity which I cannot but be fond of, as one would be of a hog that
could fiddle, or a singing owl. If he falls on me at the blunt, which
is his very good weapon in wit, I will forgive him if you please, and
leave the repartee to Black Will with a cudgel." "In pursuance of this
infamous resolution," says Sir Walter Scott, "upon the night of the
18th December 1679, Dryden was waylaid by hired ruffians, and severely
beaten, as he passed through Rose Street, Covent Garden, returning from
Will's Coffee-house to his own house in Gerrard Street. A reward of fifty
pounds was in vain offered in the London Gazette and other newspapers,
for the discovery of the perpetrators of this outrage. The town was,
however, at no loss to pitch upon Rochester as the employer of the
bravos; with whom the public suspicion joined the Duchess of Portsmouth,
equally concerned in the supposed affront thus revenged.... It will
certainly be admitted that a man, surprised in the dark, and beaten
by ruffians, loses no honour by such a misfortune. But if Dryden
had received the same discipline from Rochester's own hand, without
resenting it, his drubbing could not have been more frequently made a
matter of reproach to him; a sign, surely, of the penury of subjects for
satire in his life and character, since an accident, which might have
happened to the greatest hero that ever lived, was resorted to as an
imputation on his character."

* * * * *

Next: Rogers And Junius

Previous: A Hard Hit At Pope

Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 1454