John Dryden
Born: 09 Aug, 1631
Died: 01 May, 1700
Field: Poet
Location in the Abbey: Poets corner
Type of memorial: Bust
Type of material: Marble

John Dryden, Poet Laureate and dramatist, is buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. His monument, just outside St Benedict's chapel, now consists of a white marble bust by sculptor Peter Scheemakers on a floor-standing base. The Latin inscription can be translated:

"J DRYDEN Born 1632 Died May 1 1700"

and on the base:

"John Sheffield Duke of Buckingham erected this 1720"

The original monument by James Gibbs was unveiled on 23 January 1721 and consisted of a marble arch and surround. The first bust was replaced by the present one in 1731, given by the Duchess of Buckingham. Buckingham is alleged to have erected the monument after a hint from Alexander Pope in his intended epitaph to Nicholas Rowe. The epitaph intended for Dryden's bust was "This Sheffield raised, the sacred dust below was Dryden once: the rest who does not know?" The surround of the monument was taken down in 1848.

Dryden was born on 9 August 1631, one of fourteen children of Erasmus Dryden and his wife Mary (Pickering). He was educated at Westminster School where he published his first verses. He went on to Trinity College, Cambridge. In early life he was an admirer of Oliver Cromwell but after the Restoration in 1660 he became a Royalist and held several offices under the Crown. In 1668 he was made Poet Laureate. On 1 December 1663 he married Lady Elizabeth Howard. Two of their sons Charles (1666-1704) who drowned in the Thames, and John (1668-1701) were educated at Westminster School. The other, Erasmus Henry (1669-1710), became a priest and inherited a barony. His finest works, the tragedy All for Love and the political satire Absalom and Achitophel were published before he became a Roman Catholic and the poem The Hind and the Panther (1687) after his conversion. As a result of his conversion he lost his laureateship and died in poverty in Soho. On 13 May 1700 he was buried in the Abbey with much ceremony near Chaucer. His body had lay in state in the College of Physicians for some time and he was brought from there to the Abbey accompanied by singers and the hearse was followed by forty four coaches.

A photo of the monument can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading for Dryden and his sons:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

"Post Boy" 14 May 1700 for account of the funeral

Click on the images to enlarge