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Mr. Otway tranflated out of French into Englifh, the History of the Triumvirate; the First Part of Julius Cæfar, Pompey and Craffus, the Second Part of Auguftus, Anthony and Lepidus, being a faithful collection from the beft historians, and other authors, concerning the revolution of the Roman government, which happened under their authority, London 1686 in 8vo. Our author finding his neceffities prefs, had recourfe to writing for the ftage, which he did with various fuccefs: his comedy has been blamed for having too much libertinim mixed with it; but in tragedy he made it his business, for the most part, to obferve the decorum of the ftage. He has certainly followed nature in the language of his tragedy, and therefore fhines in the paffionate parts more than any of our English poets. As there is fomething familiar and domeftic in the fable of his tragedy, he has little pomp, but great energy in his expreffions: for which reafon, though he has admirably fucceeded in the tender and melting parts of his tragedies, he fometimes falls into too great a familiarity of phrafe in thofe, which, by Ariftotle's rule, ought to have been raised and supported by the dignity of expreffion. It has been. obferved by the critics, that the poet has founded his tragedy of Venice Preferved, on fo wrong a plot, that the greatest characters in it are thofe of rebels and traitors. Had the hero of this play discovered the fame good qualities in defence of his country, that he fhewed for his ruin and subverfion, the audience could not enough pity and admire him, but as he is now represented, we can only fay of him, what the Roman hiftorian fays of Catiline, that his fall would have been glorious (fi pro Patria fic concidiffet) had he fo fallen in the fervice of his country.

Mr. Charles Gildon, in his Laws of Poetry, files Mr. Otway a Poet of the firft Magnitude,


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and tells us, and with great juftice, that he was perfect mafter of the tragic paffions, and draws them every where with a delicate and natural fimplicity, and therefore never fails to raife ftrong emotions in the foul. I don't know of a stronger inftance of this force, than in the play of the Orphan; the tragedy is compofed of perfons whofe fortunes do not exceed the quality of fuch as we ordinarily call Feople of condition, and without the advantage of having the fcene heightened by the importance of the characters; his inimitable kill in reprefenting the workings of the heart, and its affection, is fuch that the circumftances are great from the art of the poet, rather than from the figure of the perfons reprefented. The whole. drama is admirably wrought, and the mixture of paflions raifed from affinity, gratitude, love, and mifunderstanding between brethren, ill ufage from perfons obliged flowly returned by the benefactors, keeps the mind in a continual anxiety and contrition. The fentiments of the unhappy Monimia are delicate and natural, fhe is miferable without guilt, but incapable of living with a consciousness of having committed an ill act, though her inclination had no part in it. Mrs. Barry, the celebrated actress, used to fay, that in her part of Monimia in the Orphan, fhe never spoke these words, Ah! poor Caftalio, without tears; upon which occafion Mr. Gildon obferves, that all the pathetic force had been loft, if any more words had been added, and the poet would have endeavoured, in vain, to have heightened them, by the addition of figures of speech, fince the beauty of those three plain fimple words is fo great by the force of nature, that they must have been weakened and obfcured by the finest flowers of rhetoric.

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The tragedy of the Orphan is not without great blemishes, which the writer of a criticifm.

on it, published in the Gentleman's Magazine, has very judiciously and candidly fhewn. The impetuous paffion of Polydore breaks out fometimes in a language not fufficiently delicate, particularly in that celebrated paffage where he talks of rufhing upon her in a form of love. The fimile of the bull is very offenfive to chafte ears, but poor Otway lived in diffolute times, and his neceffity obliged him to fan the harlot-face of loose defire, in compliance to the general corruption. Monimia ftaying to converfe with Polydor, after he vauntingly difcovers his fuccefs in deceiving her, is fhocking; had the left him abruptly, with a wildness of horror, that might have thrown him under the neceffity of feeking an explanation from Caftalio, the fcene would have ended better, would have kept the audience more in fufpence, and been an improvement of the confequential fcene between the brothers: but this remark is fubmitted to fuperior judges.

Venice Preferved is ftill a greater proof of his influence over our paffions, and the faculty of mingling good and bad characters, and involving their fortunes, feems to be the diftinguifhed excellence of this writer. He very well knew that nothing but diftreffed virtue can ftrongly touch us with pity, and therefore, in this play, that we may have a greater regard for the confpirators, he makes Pierre talk of redreffing wrongs, and repeat all the common place of male-contents.

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To fee the fufferings of my fellow-creatures,
And own myself a man: to fee our fenators
Cheat the deluded people with a fhew
Of Liberty, which yet they ne'er must taste of!
They fay by them our hands are free from fet-


Yet whom they please they lay in baseft bonds;
Bring whom they pleafe to infamy and forrow;

Drive us like wrecks down the rough tide of. power

Whilft no hold's left, to fave us from deftruction:
All that bear this are villains, and I one,
Not to roufe up at the great call of nature,
And check the growth of thefe domeftic fpoilers,
Who make us flaves, and tell us 'tis our charter.

Jaffier's wants and diftreffes, make him prone enough to any defpe ate refolution, yet' fays he in the language of genuine tenderness,

But when I think what Belvidera feels,
The bitterness her tender spirit taftes of,
I own myself a coward: bear my weakness,
If throwing thus my arms about thy neck,
I play the boy, and blubber in thy bofom.

Jaffier's expoftulation afterwards, is the picture of all who are part al to their own merit, and generally think a relish of the advantages of life is pretence enough to enjoy them,

Tell me, why good Heaven

Thou mad'ft me what I am, with all the fpirit,
Afpiring thoughts, and elegant defires
That fill the happieft man? ah rather why
Didft thou not form me, fordid as my fate,
Bafe minded, dull, and fit to carry burdens.

How dreadful is Jaffier's foliloquy, after he is en gaged in the confpiracy.

I'm here; and thus the shades of night surround


I look as if all hell were in my heart,
And I in hell. Nay furely 'tis fo with me;
For every step I tread, methinks fome fiend
Knocks at my breaft, and bids it not be quiet.
I've heard how defperate wretches like myself
Have wandered out at this dead time of night


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To meet the foe of mankind in his walk :
Sure I'm fo curft, that though of Heaven for-

No minifter of darkness, cares to tempt me.
Hell, hell! why fleep'it thou?

The above is the moft awful picture of a man plunged in despair, that ever was drawn by a poet; we cannot read it without terror: and when it is uttered as we have heard it, from the late juftly celebrated Booth, or thofe heart-affecting actors Garrick, and Barry, the flesh creeps, and the blood is chilled with horror.

In this play Otway catches our hearts, by introducing the episode of Belvidera. Private and public calamities alternately claim our concern; fometimes we could wish to fee a whole State facrificed for the weeping Belvidera, whofe character and diftrefs are fo drawn as to melt every heart; at other times we recover again, in behalf of a whole people in danger. There is not a virtuous character in the play, but that of Belvidera, and yet fo amazing is the force of the author's fkill in blending private and public concerns, that the ruffian on the wheel, is as much the object of pity, as if he had been brought to that unhappy fate by fome honourable action.


Though Mr. Otway poffeffed this aftonishing talent of moving the paffions, and writing to the heart, yet he was held in great contempt by fome cotemporary poets, and was feveral times unfuc cefsful in his dramatic pieces. The merits of an author are feldom juftly eftimated, till the next age after his deceafe; while a man lives in the world, he has paffion, prejudice, private and public malevolence to combat; his enemies are induftrious to obfcure his fame, by drawing into light his private follies; and perfonal malice is up in arms against every man of genius.


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