chapter
30 Pages

Introduction

WithWinifred Ernst

Dryden wrote Fables at a time when a shared sense of national unity was coalescing, even as the polarities of the past century continued to thwart political unity, and Fables is a key text urging national unity through its embrace of competing voices. Dryden draws from equally attractive, if competing, options throughout his miscellany, and he refuses to argue one-sidedly—his deep ambivalence was part of a national trend, and his audience was diverse: Jacobites and Lockeans, women and men, ancients and moderns. This miscellany includes a shrewd look at both the flaws and the strengths of a line of Stuart monarchs, including William and Mary, and the England that they have transformed. There is a sense that both a detached historical perspective that reveals patterns and a personal one that draws readers in are important to Dryden and to his contemporaries. Fables speaks to many reader interests: history that felt immediate and applicable, narrative that provided interiority alongside a large contextual scope, and complexity that reflected the world in which they lived. The Hind and the Panther and The Character of a Good Parson are discussed.