The sharp comments by the poet laureate and royal historiographer John Dryden (1631-1700) can be accounted for in part by his shifting political and religious allegiances and in part by his personal and literary controversies. His elegy on the death of Cromwell (in a volume that was to have included Marvell’s as well, entered in the Stationers’ Register 20 January 1659) was later to be countered by his two celebrations of the return of Charles II; his satire Absalom and Achitophel (1681) was a vigorous attack on the Earl of Shaftesbury, whose policies Marvell had favoured, as were also His Majesties Declaration Defended (since 1935 accepted as Dryden’s) and The Medal; and in 1686 he was to become a Roman Catholic.
For his share in inciting personal antagonism, Marvell had given additional currency to the characterization of Dryden as ‘Bayes’ in Buckingham’s Rehearsal by derogatorily applying the term to the high churchman Samuel Parker, and he had mockingly alluded to Dryden as ‘the Town-Bays’ in his commendatory poem on Paradise Lost.
(a) Extract from His Majesties Declaration Defended, 1681 (in answer to A Letter from a Person of Quality to His Friend, which had attacked the Declaration), pp. 3-4, 13.
Accordingly, upon the first appearance of it in Print, five several Pens of their Cabal were set to work; and the product of each having been examin’d, a certain person of Quality appears to have carried the majority of Votes, and to be chosen like a new Matthias [Acts 1:23-6], to succeed in the place of their deceas’d Judas.1 …
1 The allusion to the ‘deceas’d Judas’ is generally accepted as a reference to Marvell; cf. Parker’s earlier reference to him (No. 2) as Judas.