In 1658, he published his first major work, Heroique Stanzas. Two years later he produced an enthusiastic panegyric poem, Astraea Redux, in celebration of the Restoration of the monarchy. Over the following decade Dryden’s fame as a poet and literary critic grew resulting in his laureateship. Charles also conferred upon him the title of historiographer royal in August 1670.
Following the ascension to the throne of King James II, an avowed Catholic, in February 1685, Dryden converted to the same faith. Apparently, this was not to curry favour with the new monarch who had rapidly promoted many Catholics to high public office. Dryden was a critic of this policy, which – in his view – was counter-productive. Indeed, in 1688, a number of powerful political magnates approached William of Orange and his Stuart wife, Mary, with the offer of the Crown in order to protect Protestantism in Britain.
James went into exile, and Dryden lost his position as poet laureate to his rival, Thomas Shadwell, because he would not swear allegiance to the new monarchs. He continued to write until his death from gangrene in 1700. He was initially buried in a parish church before being interred in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.