DRYDEN, JOHN, an English poet; descended from an ancient family, his grandfather being Sir Erasmus Dryden of Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire; he was born near Aldwinkle, Northampton shire, in 1631, and was admitted a king's scholar at Westminster, whence he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, being here elected to a scholarship. After leaving the university he went to London, where he acted as secretary to his cousin, Sir Gilbert Pickering, a favorite of Cromwell; and on the death of the Protector he wrote his heroic stanzas on that event. At the Restoration, how ever, he hailed the return of Charles II. in "Astra Redux," and from that time his devotion to the Stuarts knew no de cay. In 1661 he produced his first play. "The Duke of Guise"; but the first that was performed was "The Wild Gallant," which appeared in 1663 and was not a success. This was followed by "The Rival Ladies," and "The Indian Queen," a tragedy on Montezuma in heroic verse, written in collaboration with Sir Robert Howard, whose sister, Lady Elizabeth Howard, Dryden married in 1663. He followed up "The Indian Queen" with "The Indian Emperor," which at once raised Dryden to the highest pitch of public estimation.
The great fire of London put a stop for some time to theatrical exhibitions. In the interval Dryden published the "Annus Mirabilis," a historical account of the events of the year 1666. In 1668 he also published his celebrated "Essay on Dramatic Poesy"—the first attempt to regulate dramatic writing. In 1668 the "Maiden Queen," a tragicomedy, was represented. This was followed in 1670 by the "Tempest," an alteration from Shakespeare, in which he was as sisted by Sir William Davenant. It was received with general applause. Dryden
was shortly afterward appointed to the offices of royal historiographer and poet laureate, with a salary of $1,000 a year. He now became professionally a writer for the stage, and produced many pieces, some of which have been strongly cen sured for their licentiousness and want of good taste. The first of his political and poetical satires, "Absalon and Achitophel" (Monmouth and Shaftes bury), was produced in 1681, and was followed by "The Medal," a satire against sedition; and "Mac Flecknoe," a satire on the poet Shadwell. On the accession of James in 1685 Dryden be came a Roman Catholic. He defended his new religion at the expense of the old one in a poem, "The Hind and the Panther." Among his other services to the new king were a savage reply to an attack by Stillingfleet, and panegyrics on Charles and James under the title of "Britannia Rediviva." At the Revolution Dryden was de prived of the offices of poet-laureate and historiographer. During the remaining 10 years of his life he produced some of his best work, including his admirable translations from the classics. He pub lished, in conjunction with Congreve, Creech, and others, a translation of Juvenal, and one of Persius entirely by himself. His poetic translation of Ver gil appeared in 1697, and, soon after, that masterpiece of lyric poetry, "Alex ander's Feast," "His Fables," etc. His poetry as a whole is more remarkable for vigor and energy than beauty, but he did much to improve English verse. He was also an admirable prose writer. He died May 1, 1700, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.