To my Dear Friend Mr. Congreve on his Comedy Call'd the Double Dealer

Original Text: 
John Dryden, Poetry, Prose, and Plays, ed. Douglas Grant (Reynard Library edition: Hart-Davis, 1952). PR 3412 G7 1952 ROBA. The base text is The Annual Miscellany, for the year 1694 (London: R. E. for J. Tonson, 1694). B-10 4946 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto)
2The present age of wit obscures the past:
3Strong were our sires; and as they fought they writ,
4Conqu'ring with force of arms, and dint of wit;
5Theirs was the giant race, before the Flood;
6And thus, when Charles return'd, our empire stood.
7Like Janus he the stubborn soil manur'd,
8With rules of husbandry the rankness cur'd:
9Tam'd us to manners, when the stage was rude;
10And boisterous English wit, with art endu'd.
11Our age was cultivated thus at length;
12But what we gained in skill we lost in strength.
13Our builders were, with want of genius, curst;
14The second temple was not like the first:
16Our beauties equal; but excel our strength.
17Firm Doric pillars found your solid base:
18The fair Corinthian crowns the higher space;
19Thus all below is strength, and all above is grace.
20In easy dialogue is Fletcher's praise:
21He mov'd the mind, but had not power to raise.
22Great Jonson did by strength of judgment please:
23Yet doubling Fletcher's force, he wants his ease.
24In differing talents both adorn'd their age;
25One for the study, t'other for the stage.
26But both to Congreve justly shall submit,
27One match'd in judgment, both o'er-match'd in wit.
28In him all beauties of this age we see;
30The satire, wit, and strength of manly Wycherly.
31All this in blooming youth you have achiev'd;
32Nor are your foil'd contemporaries griev'd;
33So much the sweetness of your manners move,
34We cannot envy you because we love.
35Fabius might joy in Scipio, when he saw
36A beardless Consul made against the law,
37And join his suffrage to the votes of Rome;
38Though he with Hannibal was overcome.
39Thus old Romano bow'd to Raphael's fame;
40And scholar to the youth he taught, became.
41      Oh that your brows my laurel had sustain'd,
42Well had I been depos'd, if you had reign'd!
43The father had descended for the son;
44For only you are lineal to the throne.
45Thus when the State one Edward did depose;
46A greater Edward in his room arose.
47But now, not I, but poetry is curs'd;
49But let 'em not mistake my patron's part;
50Nor call his charity their own desert.
51Yet this I prophesy; thou shalt be seen,
52(Tho' with some short parenthesis between:)
53High on the throne of wit; and seated there,
54Not mine (that's little) but thy laurel wear.
55Thy first attempt an early promise made;
56That early promise this has more than paid.
57So bold, yet so judiciously you dare,
58That your least praise, is to be regular.
59Time, place, and action, may with pains be wrought,
60But genius must be born; and never can be taught.
61This is your portion; this your native store;
62Heav'n that but once was prodigal before,
63To Shakespeare gave as much; she could not give him more.
64      Maintain your post: that's all the fame you need;
65For 'tis impossible you should proceed.
66Already I am worn with cares and age;
67And just abandoning th' ungrateful stage:
68Unprofitably kept at Heav'n's expense,
69I live a rent-charge on his providence:
70But you, whom ev'ry muse and grace adorn,
71Whom I foresee to better fortune born,
72Be kind to my remains; and oh defend,
73Against your judgment your departed friend!
74Let not the insulting foe my fame pursue;
75But shade those laurels which descend to you:
76And take for tribute what these lines express:
77You merit more; nor could my love do less.


1] William Congreve (1670-1729) is generally considered the greatest of the writers of Restoration comedy. Back to Line
15] Vitruvius: the great classical authority on architecture. Back to Line
29] Etherege, Southern, Wycherley: three of the most proficient Restoration dramatists. "Courtship" here means something like urbanity, courtliness. Back to Line
48] Thomas Shadwell, the hero of Mac Flecknoe, who succeeded Dryden as Poet Laureate and Historiographer Royal, died in 1692. He was succeeded as Poet Laureate by Nahum Tate and as Historiographer by Thomas Rymer, the author of a poor tragedy, to whom Dryden refers in this line. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
G. G. Falle
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.50-51.