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lated into Latin by Mery weather, and afterwards into French, Italian, Dutch, German, and most of the languages of Europe. In 1683, Charles Blount, of Staffordshire, son to Sir Henry Blount, published a short treatise, entitled, Religio Laici, which he inscribed to his "much honoured friend, John Dryden, Esq.;" whom he informed, in the epistle-dedicatory, "I have endeavoured that my discourse should only be a continuance of yours; and that, as you taught men how to believe, so I might instruct them how to live."*

It has been suggested, that the purpose of the Religio Laici of Dryden was to bring the contending factions to sober and philosophical reflection on their differences in points of faith, and to abate, if possible, the acrimony with which they contended upon the most obscure subjects of polemical divinity. But to attempt, by an abstracted disquisition on the original cause of quarrel, to stop a controversy, in which all the angry passions had been roused, and which indeed was fast verging towards blows, is as vain an attempt, as it would be to turn the course of a river, swoln with a thousand tributary streams, by draining the original springhead. From the cold reception of this poem, compared to those political and personal satires which preceded it, Dryden might learn the difference of interest, excited by productions which tended to fan party rage, and one which was designed to mitigate its ferocity. The Religio Laici, which first appeared in November 1682, neither attracted admiration nor censure; it was neither hailed by the acclamations of the one party, nor attacked by the indignant answers of the other. The public were, however, sufficiently interested in it to call for a renewal of the impression in the following year. This second edition, which had escaped even the researches of Mr Malone, is in the collection of my friend Mr Heber. It might probably have been again reprinted with advantage, but our author's change of faith must necessarily have rendered him unwilling to give a third edition. The same circumstance called the attention of his enemies towards this neglected poem, who, in many libels, upbraided him with the versatility of his religious opinions. The author of a pamphlet, called "The Revolter," was at the pains to print the tenets of the Religio Laici concerning the Catholic controversy, in contrast with those which our author had adopted and expressed in the "Hind and Panther." Another turned our author's own title against him,

Malone, Vol. III. p. 310.

The Revolter, a Tragi-Comedy, acted between the Hind and Panther and Religio Laici. London. 1687."

"

and published "Religio Laici, or a Layman's Faith touching the Supream and Infallible Guide of the Church, by J. R. a Convert of Mr Bayes. In Two Letters to a Friend in the Country. Licenced June the 1st, 1688." In both these pamphlets our author is treated with the grossest insolence and brutality. Excepting these malig

As will appear from the following extracts :-"While he sat thus in his poetical throne, or rather acting upon the stage of fable and pagan mythology, and transfiguring into beasts almost all mankind, but Turks and infidels, that were out of his road, he never considered what a monster he was himself; a second Gorgon with three heads, for each of which he had a particular employment; with the one, to fawn upon the most infamous of usurpers; with the other, at one time to lick the beneficent hands of his Protestant mother, and, bye and bye, to court the charity of his Catholic mamma; while, with the third, he barked and snarled, not only at his first deserted female parent, but also at all other differing sentiments and opinions, which his sovereign had so graciously and generously indulged.

But 'twas his wrath, because his native church
Left his high expectations in the lurch.

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He saw the play-wright lawreate debauched
By the times, vices which he himself reproached;
And, by his grand reform of stage-pit fools,
Judged his ability to manage souls.

The comedy, to see him preach for aught,
She knew might tragic prove to those he taught;
By ill instructions to their loss beguiled,

Or scorning precepts from a tongue defiled
With stage obscenity-

For who could have refrained from sportive mirth,
To hear the nation's poet, Bayes, hold forth?
Or who would ever practice by the rule

Of one they could not chuse but ridicule ?
The scandal was the greater, the more rare,
An ordained play-wright in the house of prayer.
While people only flock to hear him chime
A rampant sermon forth in brilly rhime;
Or else his gaping auditors he feasts
With bold Isaiah's raptures, and Ezekiel's beasts.
All this the church foresaw, nor could endure
Polluted lips should handle things most pure.
The Revolter, p. 2.

But, to give the devil his due, I must needs own Mr Bayes has a most powerful and luxurious hand at satire, and may challenge all Christendom to match him; for indeed I never, in my slender province, met any that was worthy to compare to him, unless that unknown, but supposed worthy author, that writ to him upon his at last turning Roman Catholic; for Bayes, like the Vicar of Bray, in Henry VIII. Edward VI. Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth's times, was resolved to keep his place; (and the quoting an author

nant criticisms, the Religio Laici slept in obscurity after the second edition, and was not again published till after the author's death. Neither has it been since popular, although its pure spirit of Christianity should be acceptable to the religious, its moderation to the philosopher, and the excellence of the composition to all admirers of argumentative poetry.

to the purpose, is the same thing, the learned say, as if it was his own), and that will, I hope, excuse my putting them down here :

"Thou mercenary renegade, thou slave,
Thou ever changing still to be a knave;
What sect, what error, wilt thou next disgrace?

Thou art so lude, so scandalously base,
That antichristian popery may be
Ashamed of such a proselyte as thee;
Not all thy rancour, or felonious spite,
Which animates thy lumpish soul to write,
Could ha' contrived a satire more severe,
Or more disgrace the cause thou wouldst prefer.
Yet in thy favour, this must be confest,
It suits with thy poetic genius best;
There thou-

To truths disused, mayst entertain
Thyself with stories, more fanciful and vain
Than e'er thy poetry could ever fain;
Or sing the lives of thy own fellow saints,
'Tis a large field, and thy assistance wants;
Thence copy out new operas for the stage,
And with their miracles direct the age.
Such is thy faith, if faith thou hast indeed,
For well we may suspect the poet's creed,
Rebel to God, blasphemer o' the king,
Oh tell whence could this strange compliance spring?
So mayest thou prove to thy new gods as true,
As thy old friend, the devil, has been to you.
Yet conscience and religion's your pretence,
But bread and drink the methologick sense.
Ah! how persuasive is the want of bread,
Not reasons from strong box more strongly plead.
A convert, thou! 'tis past all believing;
'Tis a damned scandal, of thy foes contriving;
A jest of that malicious monstrous fame-
The honest layman's faith is still the same."

Religio Laici, by J. R. a Convert of Mr Bayes.

In such coarse invective were Dryden's theological poems censured by persons, who, far from writing decent poetry, or even common sense, could neither spell, nor write tolerable grammar.

THE

PREFACE.

A POEM, with so bold a title, and a name prefixed from which the handling of so serious a subject would not be expected, may reasonably oblige the author to say somewhat in defence, both of himself and of his undertaking. In the first place, if it be objected to me, that, being a layman, I ought not to have concerned myself with speculations, which belong to the profession of divinity; I could answer, that perhaps laymen, with equal advantages of parts and knowledge, are not the most incompetent judges of sacred things; but, in the due sense of my own weakness, and want of learning, I plead not this; I pretend not to make myself a judge of faith in others, but only to make a confession of my own. I lay no unhallowed hand upon the ark, but wait on it, with the reverence that becomes me, at a distance. In the next place, I will ingenuously confess, that the helps I have used in this small treatise, were many of them taken from the works

of our own reverend divines of the church of England; so that the weapons with which I combat irreligion, are already consecrated; though I suppose they may be taken down as lawfully as the sword of Goliah was by David, when they are to be employed for the common cause against the enemies of piety. I intend not by this to entitle them to any of my errors, which yet I hope are only those of charity to mankind; and such as my own charity has caused me to commit, that of others may more easily excuse. Being naturally inclined to scepticism in philosophy, I have no reason to impose my opinions in a subject which is above it; but whatever they are, I submit them with all reverence to my mother church, accounting them no further mine, than as they are authorised, or at least uncondemned, by her. And, indeed, to secure myself on this side, I have used the necessary precaution of shewing this paper before it was published to a judicious and learned friend; a man indefatigably zealous in the service of the church and state, and whose writings have highly deserved of both. He was pleased to approve the body of the discourse, and I hope he is more my friend than to do it out of complaisance: It is true, he had too good a taste to like it all; and, amongst some other faults, recommended to my second view, what I have written, perhaps too boldly, on St Athanasius, which he advised me wholly to omit. I am sensible enough, that I had done more prudently to have followed his opinion; but then I could not have satisfied myself, that I had done honestly not to have written what was my own. It has always been my thought, that heathens, who never did, nor without miracle could, hear of the name of Christ, were yet in a possibility of salvation. Neither will it enter easily into my belief, that before the co

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