To appreciate the special significance of the term "panegyric" in Dryden's day, it is helpful to distinguish this term from its common twentieth-century synonym, "encomium." In a modern English dictionary, Webster's Third International, for example, the words "panegyric" and "encomium" are given as synonyms for each other and both are defined by a mutual synonym, "eulogy." In
seventeenth-century English dictionaries, on the other hand, the two terms are not given as synonyms. The distinction between them, preserved throughout the Stuart period, is expressed shortly after Dryden's death in John Kersey's Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum . Kersey defines "encomium" as "a Speech, or Song, in Commendation of a Person; Praise." His definition of "panegyrick" is more detailed: "a Speech deliver'd before a solemn and general Assembly of People, especially in Praise of a great Prince." "Encomium" is thus a general term synonymous with "praise," whereas "panegyrick" denotes a specific kind of public occasion (a "general Assembly of People"), a specific mode ("a Speech"), and a specific subject of praise ("a great Prince"). Kersey's distinction between these two terms, lost in modern English, accurately summarizes the definitions given by the lexicographers of the preceding century.
But there is more to this distinction than the difference between a general and a specific term. In the seventeenthcentury dictionaries of John Bullokar, Henry Cockeram, Thomas Blount, Edward Phillips, and Elisha Coles, the definitions of "encomium" are consistent in denotation and neutral in connotation, whereas the definitions of "panegyric" are inconsistent and sometimes charged with emotion. A comparative table reveals this difference.
"Encomium," praise of "any person," does not arouse the same emotions as "panegyric," praise of "great persons." Panegyric, unlike encomium, touches a political nerve.
Political differences cannot, however, entirely account for the inconsistencies among these definitions of "panegyric." Although the political views of the author may influence the tone of his definition, the fundamental discrepancies on this list are inherited from earlier lexicographers, as a closer look at Thomas Blount's Glossographia reveals. The first edition of this dictionary,
published during the interregnum, was followed by a second in 1661, the same year as Dryden's To His Sacred Majesty, A Panegyrick on his Coronation . Possibly reflecting the changing spirit of the times, Blount here reduces the antimonarchical emphasis in his definition of "panegyrick" by lopping off the phrase "wherein some falsities are joyned with many flatteries." In its place, however, Blount adds a second definition, which suggests that he was motivated to make the alteration more by the competition of his rival Edward Phillips than by political considerations. At least, Blount's second definition corresponds to the primary definition given by Phillips in 1658: "Also any Feast, Game or Solemnity exhibited, before the General Assembly of a whole Nation."
Blount's two different explanations of 1661, which capture the basic discrepancy in seventeenth-century dictionary definitions of "panegyric," reflect two different sources of information. His secondary definition is condensed from the glossary to Philemon Holland's translation of Plutarch's Morals (1603). "Panegyricke . Feasts, games, faires, marts, pompes, showes, or any such solemnities, performed or exhibited before the general assembly of a whole nation; such as were the Olympick, Pythick, Isthmick, and Nemian games in Greece." His primary definition, on the other hand, is appropriated from Thomas Thomas's Dictionarium Linguae Latinae et Anglicanae (1587). "Panegyricum. A licentious and lascivious kinde of speaking or oration in the praise and
commendation of Kings, wherein men do ioyne many lyes with flatterie." In short, one source is Greek (panegyrikos) and the other Latin (panegyricus or panegyricum ).
As Philemon Holland's definition suggests, panegyric originates in the festivals of ancient Greece. Derived from the word panegyris, meaning "a general assembly," the panegyric was a speech delivered before a mass audience on a festival occasion. Gorgias, Hippias, and Lysias are all known to have delivered panegyrics, but the most famous and influential of these festival orations is the Panegyrikos of Isocrates. Although never actually delivered as a speech, the oration was circulated among those who attended the Panathenaic festival in 380 B.C. The festival provided Isocrates not only with an occasion and an audience, but also with a serious subject: national reconciliation. The oration emphasizes the conciliatory purpose of the festival itself.
Now the founders of our great festivals are justly praised for handing down to us a custom by which, having proclaimed a truce and resolved our pending quarrels, we come together in one place, where, as we make our prayers and sacrifices in common, we are reminded of the kinship which exists among us and are made to feel more kindly towards each other for the future, reviving old friendships and establishing new ties.
The impulse behind both the festival and the festival oration, or panegyric, is the desire to promote domestic peace and national unity. When English lexicographers define "panegyric" as a "general assembly or Solemnity," they are at least indirectly referring to the Greek custom thus described by Isocrates.
When, on the other hand, they define "panegyric" as an "oration, in the praise and commendation of Kings, or other great persons," they are referring to Roman custom and literature. A late addition to the Latin language, the word panegyricus occurs only rarely in the Republican period and still infrequently in the early years of the empire. Cicero, for example, does not use the word except to refer specifically to Isocrates' oration, while Quintilian finds only three occasions to use it in the entire course of the Institutio Oratorio . By the fourth century, however, the word is commonly used to designate an oration, either in prose or verse, addressed to a public figure, usually the emperor. The most important and enduring examples of late Roman panegyric are by the poet Claudian. Between 395 and 404, Claudian attached the panegyricus label to five poems, each of which celebrates the beginning of a new year and the installation of a new consul. Three of these poems are addressed to the emperor Honorius, including the Panegyricus De Quarto Consulatu Honorii Augusti, which begins:"Once more the year opens under royal auspices and enjoys in fuller
pride its famous prince . . .," The public occasion, here an inaugural ceremony, now calls for eulogy of the emperor.
Combining the Greek example of Isocrates with the Roman example of Claudian produces a composite definition of "panegyric" like Kersey's: "a Speech deliver'd before a solemn and general Assembly of People, especially in Praise of a great Prince." If Kersey had a specific author in mind, however, it was probably neither Isocrates nor Claudian, but rather Pliny the Younger. Elected consul for the year 100, Pliny acknowledged the honor in a speech delivered before the senate. Titled an actio gratiarum, this speech includes expressions of gratitude and promises of faithful service to the senators. But these remarks are only tiny appendages to the body of the speech, an elaborate idealization of Trajan, who was present to hear himself praised as the optimus princeps . Although Pliny did not call the speech a panegyricus, later orators viewed it as a model of the genre. In fact, when Pliny's oration was rediscovered for the Renaissance in the fifteenth century, it was not alone but rather at the head of a collection of panegyrics that came to be known as the panegyrici latini or panegyrici veteres . Modeled directly on Pliny's actio gratiarum, these other orations (eleven in number) publicly celebrate the Roman emperors from Diocletian to Theodosius. All of the
orations in this collection fit Kersey's definition of "panegyric." They all praise a "great Prince" before a "general Assembly of People."
The general assembly that gathered to hear the eulogies of the later Roman emperors was not, however, necessarily restricted to the senate. On the contrary, the surviving panegyrics indicate that one of the most common occasions for this kind of oratory was an imperial visit to a provincial town. When the emperor decided to visit Autun or Trèves, for example, the town showed its appreciation by having its most distinguished orator (usually a professor at the local school) deliver an address. The speech was an essential part of the ceremony, like the decorations, the festive games, and the military salute.
The attendant atmosphere, perhaps not altogether different from the atmosphere in Athens during the Panathenaic festival, more obviously suggests the progresses of the Tudor and Stuart monarchs, especially those of Elizabeth and James I. The fourth-century orators might have felt almost at home in Cambridge on August 9, 1564, for example, when Elizabeth paid a visit to the university. "This daie, about IXne of the clock, before dinner, her Highness, with her train, rode from Colledge to Colledge; and at every House where her Grace staid was receaved with a short Oracion, two in Greeke, the residue in Latin . . ." Even when such orations were
delivered in English, the speaker often paused to establish a classical precedent. In 1572 the recorder of Warwick carefully opened his speech to Elizabeth by defining the term panegyricae (shorthand for orationes panegyricae) .
The manner and custome to salute Princes with publik Oracions hath bene of long tyme usid, most excellent and gracious Sovereigne Ladie, begonne by the Greeks, confirmed by the Romaynes, and by discourse of tyme contynued even to thies our daies: and because the same were made in publike places and open assemblies of senators and counsaillors, they were callid both in Greek and Latyn panegyricae .
By incorporating the Latin word into his English speech, the recorder expresses a sense of continuity with the classical past and identifies himself with the orators of the Roman empire, in particular with the "noble senator, Caius Plinius."
There was, however, another good reason for borrowing the Latin word on this occasion. It was not until the 1590's that the English vocabulary contained an equivalent of either panegyricus or oratio panegyrica . The first appearance of any form of the word in English is a translation of the latter expression: "Panegyricall Oration." The innovator was Gabriel Harvey and his innovation was met with predictable abuse from Thomas Nashe. In
one of his attacks on Nashe, Harvey had referred to "a plausible discourse" or "a Panegyricall Oration." In his answer Nashe condenses this to "plausible Panegyricall Orations" and then comments sarcastically: "Soft, ere I goe anie further, I care not if I draw out my purse, and change some odde peeces of olde Englishe for new coyne; but it is no matter, upon the Retourne from Guiana, the valuation of them may alter, and that which is currant now be then copper." This, as it turns out, is a remarkably prescient statement. A turn-of-the-century neologism, "panegyric" continues to be used infrequently and carefully well into the seventeenth century. When it eventually gains currency as an English word, its "valuation" does indeed begin to change from gold coin to copper.
By tracing this changing "valuation" of "panegyric" through the titles of seventeenth-and eighteenth-century poems, we can begin to establish the literary context of Dryden's addresses to the later Stuart kings. The first recorded use of the noun "panegyric" in the English language occurs in the title of Samuel Daniel's poem on the Stuart succession: A Panegyrike Congratulatorie Delivered to the Kings most excellent majesty, at Burleigh -
Harrington in Rutlandshire (1603). The title indicates that Daniel not only conceived of his poem as a verse oration, but also that he actually read the poem directly to the king. Ben Jonson's title of one year later also recalls the Roman background by stressing the public, occasional nature of the genre: A Panegyre, on the Happie Entrance of James Our Soveraigne, To His first high Session of Parliament in this his Kingdome, the 19. of March, 1603 . The ancient significance of the term is also expressed in the title of a poem written by William Drummond of Hawthornden to welcome James I to Scotland in 1617: Forth Feasting. A Panegyricke to the Kings most excellent Majesty . The word "feasting" suggests in particular the kind of ceremonial occasion, or festival, described by Isocrates. "Panegyric" for these early Stuart poets means: an address to a monarch on some public, ceremonial occasion.
This definition survives even the experience of the interregnum. Although royal, ceremonial occasions ceased to exist during the struggles of the mid-century, panegyrics continued to be written. The best example from the 1650's is Edmund Waller's poem to Cromwell: A Panegyric To My Lord Protector, Of The Present Greatness, And Joint Interest, Of His Highness, And This Nation . Like his predecessors, Waller conceives of the genre as an address, if not to a king, then at least to a "great person." Moreover, although his poem responds to no public ceremony, his title emphasizes the traditional purpose of such ceremony, national reconciliation, or as he ex-
presses it, the "Joint Interest, Of His Highness And This Nation." Imported from Greece through Rome, panegyric in England clings to its classical heritage even when historical circumstances would seem to be most inimical to this particular kind of oratory. When circumstances changed in 1660, the simultaneous impulse to express the idea of reconciliation and to recapture the forms, ceremonies, and rituals of the past produced a large number of panegyrics. The titles of these poems, although usually not as expansive and revealing as those written earlier in the century, nevertheless reassert the classical significance of the term. Thomas Fuller's A Panegyric to His Majesty, on His Happy Return (1660), Dryden's To His Sacred Majesty, A Panegyrick on his Coronation (1661), Sir Francis Fane's A Panegyrick to the King's most excellent Majesty, upon his happy accession to the crown, and his more fortunate marriage (1662), all preserve the occasional, oratorical, and courtly characteristics associated with the Latin term panegyricus, Robert Wild's panegyric of a decade later is also consistent with the classical derivation of the term: A Panegyrick to the King's Majesty . . . on his auspicious meeting of his two Houses of Parliament, February 4 th 5th , 1672. Right to the end of the seventeenth century, in fact, we find poem titles that closely resemble the titles of Daniel and Jonson written a hundred years earlier. In 1697, for example, an anonymous writer celebrated William III in A Panegyrick on His most excellent Majesty King William III. Occasioned by the happy conclusion of the general peace, September the 20th , 1697.
During the later Stuart period, however, we find more and more titles that lack one or another of the identifying
characteristics of classical panegyric. Although Charles Cotton's A Panegyric to the King's most excellent Majesty (1660) celebrates the Restoration, the ceremonial occasion is omitted from the title. Other titles (including the anonymous panegyric "on" William III mentioned above) give no indication of the oratorical origins of the genre, as increasingly we find panegyrics "on . . ." rather than panegyrics "to . . .," like Elkanah Settle's A Panegyrick on the loyal and Honourable Sir George Jefferies (1683). In still other titles, praise of the king is replaced by praise of those who only barely qualify as "great persons," as in A Panegyric upon Nelly (1681), formerly attributed to Rochester. Perhaps the prize title of the period, however, belongs to one Samuel Austin, who reveals a unique combination of knowledge and ignorance of the classical tradition: A panegyrick on His Sacred Majesties royal person, Charles IId, by the grace of God, king of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, etc., and coronation (1661). This clumsy attempt to combine the occasional and courtly dimensions of panegyric, while entirely ignoring its oratorical mode, indicates a waning awareness of the precise classical significance of the term. In short, a gap appears during the later Stuart period between panegyricus and "panegyric."
Gradually losing its original significance, "panegyric" acquires a general meaning and a pejorative connotation that eventually make it an unsuitable designation for a serious poem. Indeed, in the early eighteenth century the term virtually disappears as a generic title for an important or serious poem. Certainly no poet of stature equal to Jonson or Dryden, or even Waller for that matter, now cared to label a serious poem as a "panegyric." Even the
laureate poets neglect or disdain the term. William Whitehead, the most prolific of the eighteenth-century laureates, wrote some fifty poems on state occasions, none of them titled "panegyric." Thomas Warton, perhaps the most talented of these poets, wrote only one "panegyric," A Panegyric on Oxford Ale (1750). As this title suggests, "panegyric" is appropriated in the eighteenth century for a variety of new and usually comic, ironic, or satiric purposes. Warton's poem could be placed in a list including such poems as A Panegyric upon that familiar animal by the vulgar called a louse (1707), A Panegyric upon Silence (1709), A Panegyric on Cuckoldum (1732), A panegyric upon riddles (1742), and A Panegyric on Cork Rumps (1777). By the end of the Stuart period, the term "panegyric" has been domesticated as an English word with its own cluster of overtones, with its own characteristic uses.
Once the "valuation" of "panegyric" has thus changed from gold to copper, as Nashe had accidentally predicted, the term means: exaggerated praise of almost anyone or anything. Moreover, it is used consistently as a term of ridicule or opprobrium. This is strikingly evident in the prose of the eighteenth century. For example, in 1711 Steele light-heartedly uses the term to ridicule book dedications.
In these Cases, the Praise on the one Hand and the Patronage on the other, are equally the Objects of Ridicule. . . . Panegy-
rick generally implies no more than if the Author should say to the Patron, My very good Lord, You and I can never understand one another, therefore I humbly desire we may be ultimate Friends for the future.
Although Steele generalizes the term, equating "Panegyrick" with "Praise," he at least preserves the original idea of direct address to some "great person," in this case a prospective patron. Later in the century this vestige of the classical tradition is lost, and the term comes to include even self-praise. Thus, in 1748 Lord Chesterfield cautions his son:
If you are intent upon your own subject, neither envy, indignation, nor ridicule will obstruct or allay the applause which you may really deserve; but if you publish your own panegyric, upon any occasion, or in any shape whatsoever, and however artfully dressed or disguised, they will all conspire against you, and you will be disappointed of the very end you aim at.
Less seriously, Goldsmith in 1762 complains to the readers of The Citizen of the World about "this season of panegyric, when scarce an author passes unpraised either by his friends or himself." Three years later Johnson uses the term with equal generality and even greater disdain in his cutting reference to Theobald's victories over
previous editors of Shakespeare: "I have sometimes adopted his restoration of a comma, without inserting the panegyrick in which he celebrated himself for his atchievement." This general trend is summed up by Puff in Sheridan's play The Critic (1779). In his first appearance on stage, Puff announces his profession: "I make no secret of the trade I follow—among friends and brother authors . . . I am, Sir, a Practitioner in Panegyric, or to speak more plainly—a Professor of the Art of Puffing . . . [ 28]
Given this contemporary pattern of usage, it is no wonder that Reynolds declined to give a "panegyric" on Gainsborough in 1788, commenting: "It is not our business here, to make panegyricks on the living, or even on the dead who were of our body. The praise of the former might bear the appearance of adulation; and the latter, of untimely justice . . ." Boswell, in his introductory remarks to the Life of Johnson, makes a similar declaration: "And he will be seen as he really was; for I profess to write, not his panegyrick, which must be all praise, but his Life; which, great and good as he was, must not be supposed to be entirely perfect." Both Reynolds and Boswell, typically, use "panegyric" as a pejorative and elaborate synonym for "praise." It is essentially this
general and negative conception of the term that has survived into the twentieth century.
To summarize, the seventeenth-century distinction between "panegyric" and "encomium" disappears in the eighteenth century. Johnson authoritatively confirms contemporary usage when, in 1755, he defines "panegyric" as "An eulogy, an encomiastick piece." The interchangeability of the two terms is even more obvious in his definition of "encomium" as "Panegyrick, praise; elogy." Johnson's definition of "panegyric," which is much closer to Webster's than to Blount's or Kersey's, reflects the general meaning of the word current in the eighteenth century. In fact, Johnson almost seems to echo Fielding's association of "panegyric" and "encomium" in an early passage of Tom Jones . When Dr. Blifil is attempting to deceive Squire Allworthy, Fielding tells us: "He then launched forth into a panegyric on Allworthy's goodness; into the highest encomiums on his friendship . . ." This equation between "panegyric" and "encomium," implicit in the best prose of the eighteenth century, explicit in Fielding, and sanctioned by the authority of Johnson, extends to our own day.
Before attempting to place Dryden against the historical background of panegyric, we first need to supplement the evolving dictionary definition of "panegyric" as a word with the evolving critical definition of panegyric as a literary genre.