Samuel Johnson, in his life of Dryden, reports that throughout the spring of 1686 the fifty-six-year-old laureate could often be seen strolling Leicester Field at daybreak, barefoot, in his nightclothes, skimming dew from leaves into a glass beaker. Dryden apparently ignored anyone who addressed him during these excursions. The beaker full, he would disappear into 44 Gerrard Street to work, in the same nightclothes, on The Hind and the Panther. No one is sure what Dryden did with the dew. Johnson admits uneasily that he is supposed to have drunk it, though Green and Giordani argue that he used it to boil gallnuts for ink. According to neighbors, Dryden sometimes leaned from his study window during work and in an inaudible whisper asked passing children or carriages to be quiet while elaborately pretending to shoot them down with bow and arrow. At 1:00 PM sharp, Dryden would scratch out his last five couplets, rise from his writing desk, pray, dress, and walk to his day job as Historiographer Royal, where he behaved normally. At day’s end he went home, dined with his wife, took laudanum, and slept with an upholstered wood block for a pillow.
In my experience, if a contemporary reader of poetry has never before heard this account of Dryden, it can add considerable interest. I know this was true for me, and I made the whole thing up.