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With Life, Critical Dissertation, and
REV. GEORGE GILFILLAN.
LONDON: JAMES NISBET AND CO.
DUBLIN: W. ROBERTSON.
GENIUS AND POETICAL WORKS OF JOHN DRYDEN.
In our Life of Dryden we promised to say something about the question, How far is a poet, particularly in the moral tendency and taste of his writings, to be tried—and either condemned or justified-by the character and spirit of his age ? To a rapid consideration of this question we now proceed, before examining the constituent elements or the varied fruits of the poet's genius.
And here, unquestionably, there are extremes, which every critic should avoid. Some imagine that a writer of a former century should be tried, either by the standard which prevails in the cultured and civilised nineteenth, or by the exposition of moral principles and practice which is to be found in the Scriptures. Now, it is obviously, so far as taste is concerned, as unjust to judge a book written in the style and manner of one age by the merely arbitrary and conventional rules established in another, as to judge the dress of our ancestors by the fashions of the present day. And in respect of morality, it is as unfair to visit with the same measure of condemnation offences against decorum or decency, committed by writers living before or living after the promulgation of the Christian code, as it would be to class the Satyrs, Priapi, and Bacchantes of an antique sculptor, with their imita