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Froin these lines, which are since somewhat mended, it appears
that he did not think a work of two hours fit to endure the eye of criticism without revisal,
When Mrs. Phillips was in Ireland, fome ladies, that had seen her translation of Pompey, resolved to bring it on the stage at Dublin; and, to promote their design, Lord Roscommon gave them a prologue, and Sir Edward Dering an Epilogue;. “ which,” says she, “ are the best performances of those kinds I ever saw.” If this is not criticism, it is at least gratitude. The thought of bringing Cæsar and Pompey into Ireland, the only country over which Cæsar never had any power, is lucky.
Of Roscommon's works, the judgement of the publick seems to be right. He is elegant, but not great ; he never labours after exquisite beauties, and he seldom falls into gross faults. His versification is smooth, but 'rarely vigorous, and his rhymes are remarkably exact. He improved taste, if he did not enlarge knowledge, and may be numbered among the benefactors to English literature,
F THOMAS OTWAY, one of the first
names in the English drama, little is known; nor is there any part of that little which his biographer can take pleasure in relating.
He was born at Trottin in Sussex, March 3, 1651, the son of Mr. Humphry Otway, rector of Woolbeding. From Winchester-school, where he was educated, he was entered, in 1669, a commoner of Chrift-church; but left the university without a degree, whether for want of money, or from impatience of academical restraint, er mere eagerness to mingle with the world, is not known.
It seems likely that he was in hope of being busy and conspicuous : for he went to London, and commenced player; but found himself unable to gain any reputation on the stage.
This kind of inability he shared with Shakspeare and Jonson, as he shared likewise some of their excel
lences. It seems reafonable to expect that a great dramatick
should without difficulty become a great actor; that he who can feel, could express; that he who can excite passion, lhould exhibit with great rcadiness its external modes: but since experience has fully proved that of those powers, whatever be their affinity, one may be possessed in a great degree by him who has
little of the other; it must be allowed that they depend upon different faculties, or on different use of the same faculty; that the actor must have a pliancy of mien, a flexibility of countenance, and a variety of tones, which the poet may be easily supposed to want; or that the attention of the poet and the player have been differently employed; the one has been considering thought, and the other action; one has watched the heart, and the other contemplated the face.
Though he could not gain much notice as a player, he felt in himself such powers as might qualify for a , dramatick author; and, in 1675, his twenty-fifth year, produced Alcibiades, a tragedy; whether from the Alcibiade of Palaprat, I have not means to enquire. Langbain, the great detector of plagiarism, is filent.
In 1677 he published Titus and Berenice, translated from Rapin, with the Cheats of Scapin from Moliere; and in 1678 Friend;nip in Fashion, a comedy, which, whatever might be its first reception, was, upon its revival at Drury-lane in 1749, hissed off the stage for immorality and obscenity.
Want of inorals, or of decency, did not in those days exclude any man froin the company of the wealthy and the gay, if he brought with hiin any powers of
entertainment; and Otway is said to have been at this cime a farourite companion of the diffolute wits. But as he who desires no virtue in his companion has no virtue in himself, those whom Orway frequented had no purpose of doing more for him than to pay his
reckoning. They desired only to drink and laugh; · their fondness was without benevolence, and their fa
miliarity without friendship. Men of wit, says one of Otway's biographers, received at that time no favour from the Great but to share their riots; from which they were dismissed again to their own narrow circumstances. Thus they languished in poverty willout tbe support of imminence.
Some exception, however, must be made. The Earl of Plymouth, one of King Charles's natural fons, procured for him a cornet's commission in fome troops then sent into Flanders. But Otway did not prosper in his military character; for he soon left his commission behind him, whatever was the reason, and came back • to London in extreme indigence; which Rochester mentions with merciless insolence in the Seffion of the Poels :
Tom Otway came next, Tom Shadwell's dear zany,
The seum of a play-house, for the prop of an age. Don Carlos, from which he is represented as having received so much benefit, was played in 1675. It apfears, by the Lampoon, to have had great success, and
is faid to have been played thirey nights together. This however it is reasonable to doubt, as so long a continuance of one play upon the stage is a vey wide deviation from the practice of that time; when the ardour for theatrical entertainments was not yet diffused through the whole people, and the audience, consisting nearly of the fame persons, could be drawn together only by variety.
The Orpban was exhibited in 1680. This is one of the few plays that keep poffefsion of the stage, and has pleased for almost a century, through all the viciffitudes of dramatick fashion. Of this play nothing new can easily be said. It is a domestick tragedy drawn from middle life. Its whole power
is affections; for it is not written with much comprehenfion of thought, or elegance of expression. But if the heart is interested, many other beauties may be wanting, yet not be iniffed.
The same year produced The History and Fall of Caius Marius; much of which is borrowed from the Romeo and Juliet of Shakspeare.
In 1683 was published the firft, and next year the second, parts of The Soldier's Fortune, two comedies now forgotten: and in 1685 his last and greatest dra. matick work, Venice preserved, a tragedy, which still continues to be one of the favourites of the publick, notwithstanding the want of morality in the original design, and the despicable scenes of vile comedy with which he has diversified his tragick action *. Ву
# The want of morality may be justly obje&ted to almost the whole of Otway's writings. In the tragedy of the Orphan, in which the distress arises folely from a vicious action of a young man, is this most impious exclamation :