(1675) RARE EARLIEST EDITION AVAILABLE OF JOHN DRYDEN'S VERY FIRST SUCCESSFUL PLAY: "THE RIVAL LADIES". John Dryden was one the greatest English poets of the seventeenth century following only John Milton. After William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, he was the greatest playwright. And he has no peer as a writer of prose, especially in the realm of literary criticism. Indeed he transformed many literary genres by exploring groundbreaking avenues and approaches.
One of the most important English literary figures of his time, John Dryden (1631-1700) was a prominent poet, dramatist and critic who would dominate the literary efforts of the Restoration.
"The Face of the Restoration"
After public stage performances had been banned for 18 years by the Puritan regime, the re-opening of the theatres in 1660 signaled a Renaissance of English drama. Dryden came of age at the very dawn of the Restoration and indeed became it's poster child.
The son of a country gentleman, Dryden was educated at the University of Cambridge. His poetry celebrating the Restoration so pleased Charles II that he was named poet laureate (1668) and, two years later, royal historiographer. Even after losing the laureateship and his court patronage in 1688 with the accession of William III, he succeeded in dominating the literary scene with his numerous works, many attuned to politics and public life.
Several of his nearly 30 comedies, tragedies, and dramatic operas were blockbusters in his day. He began to succeed on his own with this very play, his first tragicomedy, The Rival Ladies (late 1663-1864), and with a sequel to The Indian-Queen, The Indian Emperour (early 1665)." he then went on to Marriage A-la-Mode (1672), Aureng-Zebe (1675), and All for Love (1677), all were outstandingly successful. His Of Dramatick Poesie (1668) was the first substantial piece of modern dramatic criticism.
[Of a significant note, Dryden's dedication in this play led directly to the great controversy resulting in the immortal work: Essay of Dramatic Poesy. Believed written during the plague year of 1666. Dryden takes up the subject that Philip Sidney had set forth in his Defence of Poesie (1580) and attempts to justify drama as a legitimate form of "poetry" comparable to the epic, as well as defend English drama against that of the ancients and the French.]
The renowned Restoration diarist Samuel Pepys, an ardent lover of the theater, was the first to praise "Rival Ladies". Pepys went on to extol many more of Dryden's works.
As a writer of prose he developed a lucid professional style, relying essentially on patterns and rhythms of everyday speech. As a critic he developed a combination of methods—historical, analytical, evaluative, dialogic—that proved enabling to neoclassical theory.
Turning away from drama, he became England's greatest verse satirist, producing the masterpieces Absalom and Achitophel (1681) and Mac Flecknoe (1682). He also produced extensive translations of Latin poetry, including Virgil's Aeneid.
Dryden made innovative advances in translation and aesthetic philosophy, and was the first poet to employ the neo-classical heroic couplet and quatrain in his own work. Dryden’s influence on later writers was immense; Alexander Pope greatly admired and often imitated him, and Samuel Johnson considered him to have “refined the language, improved the sentiments, and tuned the numbers of English poetry.”
Dryden's plays were first collected as early as 1682 and many times subsequent, though these early editions were simply 4to editions of his plays bound together with a new general title, and erratic in terms of quality and completeness. In fact, it was not until 1701 that authoritative folio was compiled. So original printed plays produced in Dryden's lifetime are especially desirable.
We could locate no earlier editions of this play worldwide
THE RIVAL LADIES as it was acted at the Theatre -Royal a Tragi -Comedy by John Driden Esquire, London: printed by T[homas]. N[ewcomb]. for Henry Herringman, at the Anchor in the lower walk of the New Exchange, 1675.. Quarto.8.5" X 6.5" 12,  pages. Third edition.
Condition: RARE EARLIEST EDITION AVAILABLE OF DRYDEN'S FIRST SUCCESSFUL PLAY: "THE RIVAL LADIES". Bound in simple plain tan boards; Positively worthy of fine binding which will be left to discrepancy of the fortunate new owner. Interior pages are in relatively good condition; as expected sporadically toned and spotted consistent with age, damp stain to upper corner of pages throughout with no interference to text legibility. Most pages are surprisingly sound and clean free of tears and markings. A scarce and desirable find and a worthy acquisition for the most discerning collector.
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