Dryden and the Art of Transversion


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Since Buckingham and his collaborators first euphemistically styled Dryden's frequent and often unacknowledged borrowings "transversion," scant attention has been paid these "plagiarisms" in the serious actions of his tragicomedies. A notable example is the main plot of Secret Love, the play whose prologue Langbaine, echoing The Rehearsal, instanced as evidence of the dramatist's "making use of Bayes's Art of Transversing."1 The story's source in the "History of Cleobuline, Queen of Corinth" from Grand Cyrus (Part VII, Book ii), an original admitted by Dryden in the preface, is well known. So also are the source's allegorical background and the most pertinent textual passages.2 But the prevailing impression is one of a routine translation, compressed in language and occasionally innovative in action, from Madeleine de Scudéry's romance. In reality, however, comparison beyond juxtaposed texts and observed episodic parallels suggests that contrary to the coiners' intention, the term "transversion" ought at least in Secret Love to denote an adaptive effort performed with considerable skill.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.