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Otway was expofed to powerful enemies, who could not bear that he fhould acquire fame, amongst whom Dryden is the foremoft. The enmity between Dryden and Otway could not proceed from jealoufy, for what were Otway's, when put in the ballance with the amazing powers of Dryden like a drop to the ocean: and yet we find Dryden declared himself his open enemy; for which, the best reafon that can be affigned is, that Otway was a retainer to Shadwell, who was Dryden's averfion. Dryden was often heard to fay, that Otway was a barren illiterate man, but
I confefs, fays he, he has a power which I have not;' and when it was asked him, what power that was? he answered, moving the paffions.' This truth was, no doubt, extorted from Dryden, for he feems not to be very ready in acknowledging the merits of his cotemporaries. In his preface to Du Frefnoy's Art of Painting, which he tranflated, he mentions Otway with refpect, but not till after he was dead; and even then he speaks but coldly of him. The paffage is as follows, To exprefs the paffions which are feated on the heart by outward figns, is one great precept of the painters, and very difficult to perform. In poetry the very fame paffions, and motions of the mind are to be expreffed, and in this con. fifts the principal difficulty, as well as the excel. lency of that art. This (fays my author) is the gift of Jupiter, and to fpeak in the fame Heathen language, is the gift of our Apollo, not to be obtained by pains or ftudy, if we are not born to it; for the motions which are ftudied, are never fo, natural, as thöfe which break out in the heighth of a real paffion. Mr. Otway poffeffed this part as thoroughly as any of either the ancients or moderns. I will not defend every thing in his Venice Preferved, but I muft bear this teftimony to his memory, that the paffions
· are truly touched in it, though, perhaps, there is fomewhat to be defired, both in the grounds of them, and the heighth and elegance of expreffion; but nature is there, which is the great'eft beauty.' Notwithstanding our admiration of Dryden, we cannot, without fome indignation, obferve, how fparing he is in the praises of Otway, who, confidered as a tragic writer, was furely fuperior to himself. Dryden enchants us indeed with flow'ry defcriptions, and charms us with (what is called) the magic of poetry; but he has feldom drawn a tear, and millions of radiant eyes have been witnesses for Otway, by thofe drops of pity which they have fhed. Otway might be no fcholar, but that, methinks, does not detract from the merit of a dramatist, nor much assist him in fucceeding. For the truth of this we may appeal to experience. No poets in our language, who were what we call fcholars, have ever written plays which delight or affect the audience. Shakefpear, Otway and Southern were no fcholars; Ben Johnson, Dryden and Addison were: and while few audiences admire the plays of the latter, those of the former are the fupports of the stage.
After fuffering many eclipfes of fortune, and being expofed to the most cruel neceffities, poor Otway died of want, in a public house on Tower-hill, in the 33d year of his age, 1685. He had, no doubt, been driven to that part of the town, to avoid the perfecution of his creditors, and as he dürft not appear much abroad to follicit affiftance, and having no means of getting money in his obfcure retreat, he perished. It has been reported, that Mr. Otway, whom delicacy had long deterred from borrowing fmall fums, driven at last to the most grievous neceffity ventured out of his lurking place, almost naked and shivering, and went into a coffee-house on Tow
er-hill, where he faw a gentleman, of whom he had fome knowledge, and of whom he follicited the loan of a hilling. The gentleman was quite fhocked, to fee the author of Venice Preferved begging bread, and compaffionately put into his hand a guinea.
Mr. Otway having thanked his benefactor, retired, and changed the guinea to purchase a roll; as his ftomach was full of wind by excess of fasting, the first mouthful choaked him, and instantaneously put a period to his days.
Who can confider the fate of this gentleman, without being moved to pity? we can forgive his acts of imprudence, fince they brought him to fo miferable an end; and we cannot but regret, that he who was endowed by nature with fuch diftinguished talents, as to make the bofom bleed with falutary forrow, Thould himself be fo extremely wretched, as to excite the fame fenfations for him, which by the power of his eloquence and poetry, he had raifed for imaginary heroes. We know, indeed, of no guilty part of Otway's life, other than thole fashionable faults, which ufually recommend to the converfation of men in courts, but which ferve for excufes for their patrons, when they have not a mind to provide for them. From the example of Mr. Otway, fucceeding poets fhould learn not to place any confidence in the promifes of patrons; it discovers a higher fpirit, and reflects more honour on a man to itruggle nobly for independance, by the means of industry,. than fervilely to wait at a great man's gate, or to fit at his table, meerly to afford him diverfion : Competence and independence have furely more fubftantial charms, than the fmiles of a courtier, which are too frequently fallacious. But who can read Mr. Otway's ftory, without indignation at thofe idols of greatness, who demand worship from men of genius, and yet can fuffer them to live miferably, and die neglected ?
The dramatic works of Mr. Otway are,
1. Alcibiades, a Tragedy, acted at the Duke of York's Theatre, 1675, dedicated to Charles, Earl of Middlefex. The ftory of this play is taken from Cor. Nepos, and Plutarch's Life of Alcibiades.
2. Titus and Berenice, a Tragedy, acted at the Duke's Theatre, 1677, dedicated to John, Earl of Rochester. This play confifts of but three Acts, and is a tranflation from M. Racine. into heroic verfe; for the ftory fee Suetonius, Dionyfius, Ja fephus; to which is added the Cheats of Scapin, a Farce, acted the fame year. This is a tranflation from Moliere, and is originally Terence's Phormio.
3. Friendship in Fashion, a Comedy, acted at the Duke's Theatre, 1678, dedicated to the Earl of Dorfet and Middlefex. This play was revived at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane, 1749, and was damned by the audience, on account of the immorality of the defign, and the obscenity of the dialogue.
4. Don Carlos, Prince of Spain, a Tragedy, acted at the Duke of York's Theatre, 1679. This play, which was the fecond production of our author, written in heroic verse, was acted with very great applaufe, and had a run of thirty nights; the plot from the Novel called Don Carlos.':
5. The Orphan, or the Unhappy Marriage, as Tragedy, acted at the Duke of York's Theatre, 1680, dedicated to her Royal Highness the Duchefs. It is founded on the History of Brandon, and Novel called the English Adventurer. Scene Bohemia.
6. The History and Fall of Caius Marius, Tragedy, acted at the Duke's Thearre, 1680, dedicated to Lord Viscount Falkland. The cha
racters of Marius Junior and Lavinia, are borrow. ed literally from Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet, which Otway has acknowledged in his Prologue.
7. The Soldier's Fortune, a Comedy, acted at the Duke's Theatre, 1681. This play is dedicated to Mr. Bentley his Bookfeller; for the copy money, as he tells us himself, fee Boccace's Novels, Scarron's Romances.
8. The Atheist, or the Second Part of the Soldier's Fortune, a Comedy, acted at the Duke of York's Theatre, 1684, dedicated to Lord Eland, the eldest fon to the Marquis of Hallifax.
9. Venice Preferved, or a Plot Difcovered, a Tragedy, acted at the Duke's Theatre, 1685, dedicated to the Duchefs of Portsmouth. Of this we have already given fome account, and it is fo frequently acted, that any enlargement would be impertinent. It is certainly one of the most moving plays upon the English ftage; the plot from a little book, giving an account of the Confpiracy of the Spaniards againft Venice.
Befitles his plays, he wrote feveral poems, viz.
The Poet's Complaint to his Muse, or a Satire a
gainst Libels, London, 1680, in 4to.
Windfor Caftle, or a Monument to King Charles the Second.
Mifcellany Poems, containing a New Tranflation of Virgil's Eclogues, Ovid's Elegies, Odes of Horace, London 1684. He tranflated likewife the Epiftle of Phædra to Hyppolitus, printed in the Translation of Ovid's Epiftles, by feveral hands. He wrote the Prologue to Mrs. Bhen's City Heirefs. Prefixed to Creech's Lucretius, there is a copy of verses written by Mr. Otway, in praise of that translation.