The Dramatick Works of John Dryden, Esq.

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by John Dryden

John Dryden (1631-1700) was an influential and innovative poet, critic, playwright, and translator.[1] He began his career with poetry influenced by his love of Greek and Roman poetry, and established his profession in theater. Dryden had to stop writing plays for the stage with the outbreak of the plague in London in 1665, but continued to write prolifically. His works show his belief in divine providence, and his interest in fanciful adaptations of classic works (including those of Shakespeare and Milton) and political satire supporting King Charles II.

In the 1660s-70s, Dryden’s work became dominated by the heroic drama and critical essays. He fiercely praised the use of “dramatick” rhyme and language in his plays.[2] In 1680 he contracted with a bookseller, which marks a turning point in his career. Dryden translated Greek and Roman classics throughout the second half of his career.[3]

In 1685, Dryden converted to Catholicism, and his works evolved from his modern and secular tone to become dominated by religious devotion.[4] He wrote prolifically until his death in May 1700, publishing his 3 year project translating the whole works of Virgil in 1697, while he suffered from brain cancer.

Bibliographic Information

Author: John Dryden

Title: The Dramatick Works of John Dryden, Esq.: in Six Volumes

Published: London: Printed for J. and R. Tonson in the Strand, 1762-1763.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as Dryden’s works. 6.v. 12mo. and given by Thomas Jefferson to his granddaughters, Ann and Ellen Randolph. The precise edition of the set owned by Wythe is unknown. George Wythe's Library[5] on LibraryThing indicates as much, adding "Six-volume editions in duodecimo were published at London in 1717, 1725, 1735, and 1762-63." The Brown Bibliography[6] lists the 1762-1763 edition based on the copy Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress.[7] The Wolf Law Library purchased a copy of the 1762-1763 edition.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in 1/2 brown calf with marbled boards and endpapers, spines have raised bands with 2 dark brown labels lettered in gilt. Gilt decoration on the remainder of the spine and all edges gilt. Purchased from Gibson Galleries.

View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.


  1. Paul Hammond, “Dryden, John (1631–1700),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004), accessed September 24, 2013. Unless otherwise noted, all biographical details are from this source.
  2. Samuel Johnson “The Life of Dryden," Lives of the English Poets, ed. G.B.Hill (Clarendon Press, 1905), as transcribed by Jack Lynch.
  3. Tina Skouen, “The Vocal Wit of John Dryden,” Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric, 24, No. 4 (University of California Press, 2006), p. 373.
  4. Felicity Rosslyn, "Dryden: Poet or Translator?" Translation & Literature 10, no. 1: 21 (Academic Search Complete, 2001), pp. 24-25.
  5. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on November 18, 2013,
  6. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  7. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 2nd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983), 4:538 [no.4543].