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But of the praife of Waller, though much may be taken away, much will remain: he added fomething to our elegance of diction, and fomething to our propriety of thought. His opinion concerning the duty of a poet is contained in his declaration, that "he would blot from his works any line that did not contain fome motive to virtue." And to him may be applied what Taffo faid of himself and Guarini, after having perused the Paftor Fido-" If he had not read Aminta, he had not excelled it."
Of Thomas Otway, one of the first names in the English drama, little is known. He was the fon of a clergyman, and born in Suffex, 1651. From Winchester school, where he was educated, he was entered a commoner of ChristChurch, 1669; but left the univerfity without a degree; whether for want of money, or impatience of academical restraint, is not known.
At London he commenced player, but was unable to gain any reputation on the stage. But unfuccefsful in this line, he felt in himself powers which qualified him for a dramatic author; and, in his twenty-fifth year, he produced Alcibiades. He afterwards published Titus and Berenice, from Rapin; the Cheats of Scapin, from Moliere; and Friendship in Fashion, a comedy, which, whatever might be its firft reception, was, upon its revival at Drury-lane, hiffed off the ftage for its immorality.
Want of morals or decency did not, in thofe days, exelude any man from the fociety of the opulent and the great, if he brought with him any powers of entertainment; and Otway is faid to have been a favourite in the circle of the wits. But as he who defires no virtue in his companion has no virtue himfelf, thofe with whom Otway affociated had no intention, of ferving him further than by paying the reckoning: their kindnefs was without benevolence, and their familiarity without friendship. "The great, at that time, allowed no favour to men of genius, but to fhare their riots, from which they difmiffed
them again to their own narrow circumstances: thus they languifhed in indigence without the fupport of emis
The earl of Plymouth, however, procured for Otway a Cornet's commiffion in fome troops fent into Flanders; but he did not profper in his military character, for he foon left his commiffion behind him, whatever was the reafon, and came back to London in extreme want. His play of Don Carlos appears to have had uncommon fuccefs, and from which he is reprefented to have received. great benefit. The Orphan was exhibited in 1680. This yet keeps poffeffion of the ftage, and has pleafed for a century, through all the viciffitudes of dramatic fashion: it is a domeftic tragedy, drawn from middle life: its whole power is upon the affections; for it is not written with much comprehenfion of thought, or elegance of expreffion; but, if the heart be interested, many other beauties may be wanting, and not miffed. The next year produced the Fall of Caius Marius, much of which is borrowed from the Romeo and Juliet of Shakspeare.
His laft and greatest work is Venice Preferved; ftill a favourite of the public, notwithstanding the want of mo rality in the defign, and the defpicable fcenes of low comedy with which he has diverfified his tragic action. By comparing this with his Orphan, it will appear that his images were become ftronger, and his language more energetic. The ftriking paffages are univerfally known; and the public judges rightly of its faults and excellences, that it is the compofition of a man not attentive to decency, nor zealous for virtue, but one who conceived forcibly, and drew originally, by confulting nature in his own breaft.
He alfo wrote poems which are in the late collection, and tranflated from the French the Hiftory of the Triumvirate.
All these were produced before he was thirty-four years old. He died in a manner painful to relate. Having been compelled by his neceffities to contract debts, and hunted by bailiffs, he retired to a public-houfe on Tower-Hill: he went out (fays his biographer) almoft naked, in the rage of hunger, and finding a gentleman in a coffee-house, afked him for a fhilling; the gentleman gave him a guinea; and Otway going away, bought a roll, and was choaked with the first mouthful.
The principal power of Otway was in moving the paffions: he appears to have been a zealous royalift, and received what, in thofe times, was the common reward of loyalty he lived and died neglected.
Mrs. Catharine Phillips, known by the name of the "Matchlefs Orinda," was much and defervedly esteemed for her poetical talents, and was unrivalled by the female wits of her time. Her poems are more admired for propriety and beauty of thought than harmony of verfification, in which he was generally deficient.
She tranflated the Pompey and Horace of Corneille. Her Letters to Sir Charles Cotterell are amongst the best of her works.
The comedies of Wycherly were in great reputation, and were conformable to his perfonal character, which confifted of little virtue, much wit, and more libertinifm. Thefe, in the reign of Charles, were the first qualifications of a fine gentleman, and the ftrongest recommendation to the favour of the court. At the fame time Killigrew, fir George Etheridge, and other play-wrights, published works well adapted to the licentioufnefs of the court, and the prevailing manners of the age.
The marquis of Newcastle, in confequence of his rank rather than his merit, was celebrated amongst the poets. His writings, confifting of plays and poems, are now little
regarded; but his book on horsemanship is yet held in efteem.
Payne Fisher, poet laureat to Cromwell, was a copious and not inelegant writer of Latin verfe: he flourished before and after the Restoration. This character by Strada is exactly applicable to him:
"Nullius hodie mortalium, aut nafcitur, aut moritur, aut præliatur, aut rufticatur, aut abiit peregre, aut rediit, aut eft, aut non est, (nam etiam mortuis ifte canit,) cui non extemplo credat Epicedia, Genethliaca, Proterptica nænias nugas." (See a catalogue of his works, Athena Oxonienfis.)
Thomas May was a diftinguished poet and hiftorian, . and Johnfon has pronounced his Latin performances to be fuperior to thofe of Cowley or Milton *.
* Hume, Macauley, Wood's Athen. Ox. Johnfon's Lives, Biograph. Brit. Grainger, Biog. Dict. &c. &c.