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every change was an improvement. It appears, however, to want something of poetical ardour, and something of general delectation; and therefore, since it has been no longer supported by accidental and extrinfick popularity, it has been scarcely able to support itself,
RO 0 W
ICHOLAS ROWE was born at
Little Beckford in Bedfordshire, in 1673. His family had long poffeffed a confiderable estate, with a good house, at Lambertoun * in Devonshire. The ancestor from whom he descended in a direct line, received the arms borne by his descendants for his bravery in the Holy War. His father John Rowe, who was the first that quitted his paternal acres to practise any art of profit, professed the law, and published Benlow's and Dallison's Reports in the reign of James the Second, when, in oppofition to the notions then diligently propagated, of dispensing power, he ventured to remark how low his authors rated the prerogative. He was made a ferjeant, and died April 30, 1692. He was buried in the Temple Church.
* In the Villare; Lamerton,
Nicholas was first fent to a private fchool at Highgate; and being afterwards removed to Westminster, was at twelve years chosen one of the King's scholars. His master' was Busby, who suffered none of his scholars to let their powers lie useless ; and his exercises in several languages are said to have been written with uncommon degrees of excellence, and yet to have cost him very little labour.
At fixteen he had in his father's opinion made advances in learning sufficient to qualify him for the study of law, and was entered a student of the Middle Temple, where for some time he read statutes and reports with proficiency proportionate to the force of his mind, which was already such that he endeavoured to comprehend law, not as a series of precedents, or collection of positive precepts, but as a system of rational government, and impartial justice.
When he was nineteen, he was by the death of his father left more to his own direction, and probably from that time suffered law gradually to give way to poetry. At twenty-five he produced The Ambitious Stepmother, which was received with so much favour, that he devoted himself from that time wholly to elegant literature.
His next tragedy (1702) was Tamerlane, in
, which, under the name of Tamerlane, he intended to characterise king William, and Lewis the Fourteenth under that of 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 time was, to accumulate
Lewis all that can raise horror and detestation ; and whatever good was withheld from him, that it might not 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 occasional poetry must often conten 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 still 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 easily received by the imagination, and affimilated to common life;. the diction is exquisitely 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