John Dryden: Some Biographical Facts and Problems

John Dryden: Some Biographical Facts and Problems

John Dryden: Some Biographical Facts and Problems

John Dryden: Some Biographical Facts and Problems

Excerpt

Never have scholars been so interested in British history of the later seventeenth century as they are today. Within the past two decades much of the history of the period has been rewritten; the economic and political history by scholars such as G. N. Clark, David Ogg, and E. S. de Beer, and the history of the theater by Allardyce Nicoll, Leslie Hotson, Alfred Harbage, and (abusus non tollit usum) Montague Summers. This trend of interest will undoubtedly continue—making allowance for the toll of war—because an invaluable tool will soon be available, Donald Wing's Short Title Catalogue of English Books 1641-1700, now in course of publication by the Index Society. Just as Pollard and Redgrave's Short Title Catalogue 1475-1640 was followed by a burst of activity in Tudor and Jacobean research, so should Mr. Wing's volumes stimulate historians of the later seventeenth century.

A revival of interest in the greatest literary figure of this period, John Dryden, has been noticeable for some time. Led by T. S. Eliot and Mark Van Doren, present-day critics have found new significance in Dryden's poetry and critical writings. Louis I. Bredvold's examination of Dryden's intellectual milieu has gone far toward charting the mental patterns followed by Dryden and many of his contemporaries. The bibliographical information collected by Percy J. Dobell, George Thorn-Drury, and others has been augmented and recently published by Hugh Macdonald. An edition of Dryden's correspondence by Charles E. Ward is ready for the press, and plans for a complete edition of Dryden's works under the direction of Edward N. Hooker have been announced by the University of California. Mr. Dobell's collection of Dryden books has been acquired by the Folger Shakespeare Library and so made permanently available to American scholars.

Amid all this activity there is one noticeable lack—there is no adequate biography of Dryden. No other literary figure of his stature has been so neglected. The last attempt at a full-dress life was made in 1808 . . .

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