terize king William, and Lowis the Fourteenth under Bajazet. The virtues of Tamerlane seem to have been arbitrarily assigned him by his poet, for I know not that history gives any other qualities than those which make a conqueror. The fashion, however, of the tiine, was, to accumulate upon Lewis all that can raise horror and deteftation ; and whatever good was withheld from him, that it might Hot be thrown away, was bestowed upon king William.

This was the tragedy which Rowe valued most, and that which probably, by the help of political auxiliaries, excited most applause ; but occational poetry muft often content itself with occasional praise. Tamerlane has for a long time been acted only once a year, on the night when king William landed. Our quarrel with Lewis has been long over, and it now gratifies neither zeal nor malice to see him painted with aggravated features, like a Saracen upon a sign.

The Fair Penitent, his next production (1703), is one of the most pleasing tragedies on the stage, where it ftill keeps its turns of appearing, and probably will long keep them, for there is scarcely any work of any poet at once so interesting by the fable, and so delightful by the language. The story is domestick, and therefore ealily received by the imagination, and assimilated to common life; the diction is exquilitely harmonious, and soft or spritely as occasion requires.

The character of Lothario seems to have been expanded by Richardson into Lovelace, but he has excelled his original in the moral effect of the fiction. Lothario, with gaiety which cannot be hated, and bravery which cannot be despised, retains too much of the spectator's kindness. It was in the power

of Richardfan alone to teach us at once esteem and deteft


tation, to make virtuous resentment overpower all the benevolence which wit, elegance, and courage, natuturally excite; and to lose at last the hero with the villain.

The fifth act is not equal to the former; the events of the drama are exhausted, and little remains but to talk of what is past. It has been observed, that the title of the play does not sufficiently correspɔnd with the behaviour of Calista, who at last shews ao evident figns of repentance, but may be reasonably suspected of feeling pain from detection rather than from guilt, and expresses more shame than sorrow, and more rage than shame.

His next (1706) was Ulysses ; which, with the common fate of mythological stories, is now generally neglected. We have been too early acquainted with the poetical heroes, to expect any pleasure from their revival : to shew them as they have already been shewn, is to disgust by repetition ; to give them new qualities, or new adventures, is to offend by violating received potions.

The Royal Convert (1708) seems to have a better. claim to longevity. The fable is drawn from an obscure and barbarous age, to which fi&tions are more easily and properly adapted; for when objects are imperfectly feen, they easily take forins from imagination. The scene lies among our ancestors in our own country, and therefore very easily catches attention. Rbodogune is a personage truly tragical, of high spirit, and violent passions, great with tempestuous dignity, and wicked with a foul that would have been heroic if it had been virtuous. The motto seems to tell that this play was not successful.


W E. Rowe does not always remember what his characters require. In Tamerlane there is some ridiculous men: tion of the God of Love; and Rhodogune, a savage Saxon, talks of Venus, and the eagle that bears the thunder of Jupiter.

This play discovers its own date, by a prediction of the Union, in imitation of Cranmer's prophetick promises to Henry the Eighth. The anticipated bleffings of union are not very naturally introduced, nor very happily expreffed.

He once (1706) tried to change his hand. He veño tured on a comedy, and produced the Biter; withi which, though it was unfavourably treated by the audience, he was himself delighted ; for he is said to have fat in the house, laughing with great vehemence, ; whenever he had in his own opinion produced a jeft: But finding that he and the publick had no sympathy of mirth, he tried at lighter scenes no more.

After the Royal Convert (1714) appeared Janė Shore, written, as its author professes, in imitation of Shakspeare's style. In what he thought himself an imitator of Shakspeare, it is not easy to conceive. The numbers, the diction, the sentiments, and the conduct, every thing in which imitation can conlist, are remote in the utmost degree from the manner of Shakspeare ; whose dramas it resembles only as it is an English story, and as some of the persons have their names in history. This play, consisting chiefly of domestic scenes and private distress, lays hold upon the heart. The wife is forgiven because she repents, and the husband is honoured because he forgives. This, therefore, is one of those pieces which we still welcome on the stage.

His last tragedy (1715) was Lady Jane Grey. This subject had been chosen by Mr. Smith, whose papers were put into Rowe's hands such as he describes them in his preface. This play has likewise funk into oblivion. From this time he gave nothing more to the Itage.

Being by a competent fortüne exempted from any necessity of combating his inclination, he never wrote in distress, and therefore does not appear to have ever written in hafte. His works were finished to his own approbation, and bear few marks of negligence or hurry. It is remarkable that his prologues and epilogues are all his own, though he sometimes supplied others; he afforded help, but did not folicit it.

As his studies necessarily made him acquainted with Shakspeare, and acquaintance produced veneration, he undertook (1709) an edition of his works, from which he neither received much praise, nor seems to have expected it ; yet, I believe, those who compare it with former copies will find that he has done more than he promised; and that, without the pomp of notes or boasts of criticism, many passages are happily restored. He prefixed a life of the author, such as tradition then almost expiring could supply i and a preface, which cannot be said to discover much profundity or penetration. He at least contributed to the popularity of his author.

He was willing enough to improve his fortune by orher arts than poetry. He was under-secretary for three years when the duke of Queensberry was secretary of state, and afterwards applied to the earl of Oxford for some publick employment *

Oxford en




Vol. III.


joined him to study Spanish; and when, fome time afterwards, he came again, and said that he had maftered it, dismissed him with this congratulation,

Then, Sir, I envy you the pleasure of reading Don “ Quixot in the original.”

This story is sufficiently attested; but why Oxford, who desired to be thought a favourer of literature, should thus insult a man of acknowledged merit; or how Rowe, who was so keen a Whig * that he did not willingly converse with men of the opposite party, could ask preferment from Oxford; it is not now poflible to discover. Pope, who told the story, did not say on what occasion the advice was given; and though he owned Rowe's disappointment, doubted whether any injury was intended him, but thought it rather lord Oxford's odd way.

It is likely that he lived on discontented through the rest of queen Anne's reign; but the time came at last when he found kinder friends. At the accession of king George he was made poet laureat; I am afraid by the ejection of poor Nahum Tate, who (1716) died in the Mint, where he was forced to seek Thelter by extreme poverty. He was made likewise one of the land surveyors of the customs of the port of London. The prince of Wales chose him clerk of his council ; and the lord chancellor Parker, as soon as he received the seals, appointed him, unasked, secretary of the presentations. Such an accumulation of employments undoubtedly produced a very considerable


Having already translated some parts of Lucan's Pharsalia, which had been published in the Mifcella

* Spence.

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