- John Dryden - the Supreme Lyrist [Biography]
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John Dryden

"Let grace and goodness be the principal loadstone of thy affections. For love which hath ends, will have an end; whereas that which is founded on true virtue, will always continue."

Dryden lived in a time of political and religious turmoil, and his own beliefs seemed to shift with the times. Coming from a family with Puritan and anti-Royalist leanings, he began his literary career in 1659 with a poem in praise of Cromwell. After the Restoration the next year, he came out in favour of the Anglican Church and the monarchy by publishing a poem in praise of Charles II. When the Crown became Catholic with the accession of James II in 1685, Dryden became a convert to Catholicism. One of his most celebrated poems, The Hind and the Panther, was a defence of the Catholic religion. He remained a Catholic after the Protestants William and Mary came to power three years later, even at the cost of the royal pensions and offices he had held. From then on, he had to depend entirely upon his pen for a living.

Dryden wrote poetry, verse satire, prose prefaces, and literary criticism, but his chief source of income was the stage. One of the most prolific dramatists of the Restoration, he turned out comedies, tragedies, and heroic plays for the newly opened theatres. His best play was All for Love, a version of the story of Antony and Cleopatra. He also translated Virgil, revised Chaucer, collaborated on an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and made Paradise Lost into an opera.

Dryden was one of the first writers to break away from the extravagant style of the late metaphysical poets and to write in a more restrained and natural style. The heroic couplet he used in many of his satires and plays became the dominant poetic style for a century.

contributed by Gifford, Katya

2 March 2002

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