A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Dennis, John

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Dennis, John (1657-1734). -- Critic, etc., s. of a saddler, was b. in London, and ed. at Harrow and Caius Coll., Camb., from the latter of which he was expelled for stabbing a fellow-student, and transferred himself to Trinity Hall. He attached himself to the Whigs, in whose interest he wrote several bitter and vituperative pamphlets. His attempts at play-writing were failures; and he then devoted himself chiefly to criticising the works of his contemporaries. In this line, while showing some acuteness, he aroused much enmity by his ill-temper and jealousy. Unfortunately for him, some of those whom he attacked, such as Pope and Swift, had the power of conferring upon him an unenviable immortality. Embalmed in The Dunciad, his name has attained a fame which no work of his own could have given it. Of Milton, however, he showed a true appreciation. Among his works are Rinaldo and Armida (1699), Appius and Virginia (1709), Reflections Critical and Satirical (1711), and Three Letters on Shakespeare. He d. in straitened circumstances.