John Dryden (1631-1700)


8/9/1631:Born to puritans Erasmus Dryden and Mary Pickering, the eldest of 14 children in the village rectory of Aldwincle near Thrapstone in Northamptionshire, England and second cousin once removed of Jonathan Swift. 

1631-1644:Lived in Titchamarsh where he received his first education.  

1644:Sent to the Westminster Scholl as a King’s Scholar which had been re-founded by Elizabeth I and encouraged royalism and high Anglicanism. As a pupil of Headmaster Dr. Richard Busby Dryden. Trained in rhetoric and the presenting of arguments of both sides of a situation. Lessons would also include weekly translation assignments which would serve him later. Eventually he sent two of his three sons to Westminster and a house was named after him. 

1/31/1649:Attended the funeral of his friend Henry, Lord Hastings which influenced his first published poem, “Upon the Death of Lord Hastings” 

1650-54:Attended Trinity College. Though not much is known about his education it is assumed that he took part in the standard curriculum of classics, rhetoric, and mathematics. Eventually he graduated with a BA.  

June 1654:Erasmus Dryden died leaving John some land that made little income but not enough to live on. 

1654-58:His cousin Sir Gilbert Dickering obtained Dryden a position as a Latin Secretary for Oliver Cromwell’s Secretary of state John Thurloe. 

1660-62:To celebrate the return of the monarchy with Charles II Dryden converted to Catholicism as he saw Charles II as England’s return to peace and order,” To His Majesty: A Panegyric On His Coronation” and “To My Lord Chancellor”. 

12/1/1663:Dryden married Lady Elizabeth the sister of Sir Robert Howard in which they had three sons. 

1660-66:Dryden looked for a patron to finance his work but was forced to write for publishers. As a result Dryden wrote not for the aristocracy but for the public in the form of occasional poems-a form of blank verse poetry that celebrates a particular event; births, public gatherings, military victories, EST… Dryden was expelled from the Royal Society for not paying membership dues. 

1667:Dryden’s dramatic career started with Annus Mirabillis that described the events of 1660(the defeat of the Dutch navy and the great fire of London). 

1668-70:Charles II appointed Dryden Poet Laureate and later Historiographer Royal 

Though 1663-70’s:Started his career as a playwright with; “Wild Gallant” which was not a success as part as an employee and later shareholder of the Kings Company. In 1665 when the great plague of London closed the theaters Dryden wrote the essay, “Of Dramatic Poesie” (1668) 

1675:In the prologue of his play; “Aureng-zebe” Dryden expressed the elation of the poetic tradition and the creative process and denounces the use of rhyme in serious drama. 

1678-81:Dryden wrote his most famous works; “Mac Flecknoe” and “Absalom and Achitophel. 

1688:With the deposition of King James I the refusal to take oaths of allegiance to William III Dryden fell out of favor with the new government and Thomas Shadwell replaced him as Poet Laureate and was forced to give up public office. 

1694-97:Translated the works of Virgil and wrote the occasional poem/song “Alexander’s Feast”. 

1700:In the volumes “Fables Ancient and Modern” he translated parts of Homer (the Aeneid which is considered to be the best example produced in English), Ovid, Boccaccio, and modern adoptions of Chaucer. This including his essay “Preface of Fables” made classical works accessible to the public 

5/1/1700:Dryden died and was buried in St. Anne’s cemetery and then ten days later was moved to Westminster Abbey. 


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