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it is reasonable to doubt, as so long a continuance of one play upon the stage is a very wide deviation from the practice of that time; when the ardour for theatrical entertainments was not yet diffused through the whole people, and the audience, consisting nearly of the fame persons, could be drawn together only by variety.
The Orphan was exhibited in 1680. This is one of the few plays that keep possession of the stage, and has pleased for almolt a century, though all the vicissitudes of dramatic fashon. Of this play nothing new can easily be said. It is a domestick tragedy drawn from middle life. Its whole power is upon the affections; for it is not written with much comprehension of thought, or elegance of expression. But if the heart is interested, many other beauties may be wanting, yet not be missed.
The same year produced The History of Caius Marius; much of which is borrowed from the Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare.
In 1683 was published the first and next year the second parts of The Soldier's Fortune, two comedies now forgotten; and in 1685 his last and greatest dramatic work, Venice preserved, a tragedy, which still continues to be one of the favourites of the publick, notwithstanding the want of morality in the original design, and the despicable scenes of vile comedy with which he has diversified his tragick action. By comparing this with his Orphan, it will appear that his images were by time become stronger, and his language more energetick. The striking passages are in every mouth; and the publick seems to judge rightly of the faults and excel
lencies of this play, that it is the work of a man not attentive to decency, nor zealous for virtue ; but one who conceived forcibly, and drew originally, by consulting nature in his own breast.
Together with those plays he wrote the poems which are in this collection, and translated from the French the History of the Triumvirate.
All this was performed before he was thirty four years old; for he died April 14, 1685, in a manner which I am unwilling to mention. Having been compelled by his necessities to contract debts, and hunted, as is supposed, by the terriers of the law, he retired to a publick house on Tower-hill, where he died of want, or, as it is related by one of his biographers, by swallowing, after a long fast, a piece of bread which charity had supplied. He went out, as is reported, almost naked, in the rage of hunger, and finding a gentleman in a neighbouring coffee-house, asked him for a shilling. The gentleman gave him a guinea; and Otway going away bought a roll, and was choaked with the first mouthful. All this, I hope, is not true; but that indigence, and its concomitants, forrow and despondency, brought him to the grave has never been denied.
Of the poems which this collection admits, the longest is the Poet's Complaint of bis Muse, part of which I do not understand; and in that which is less obscure I find little to commend. The language is often gross, and the numbers are harsh. Otway had not much cultivated versification, nor much replenished his mind with general knowledge. His principal power was in moving the passions, to which Dryden
in his latter years left an illustrious testimony. He appears, by some of his verses, to have been a zealous royalist: and had what was in those times the common reward of loyalty; he lived and died neglected.
DU K E. DU K E.
F Mr. RICHARD DUKE I can find few memorials. He was bred at Westminster and Cambridge; and Jacob relates, that he was some time tutor to the duke of Richmond.
. He appears from his writings to have been not ill qualified for poetical compositions; and being conscious of his powers, when he left the university he enlifted himself among the wits. He was the familiar friend of Otway ; and was engaged, among other popular names, in the tranilation of Ovid and Juvenal. In his Review, though unfinished, are some vigorous lines. His poems are not below medio. crity; nor have I found much in them to be praised. . With the wit he seems to have shared the disfoluteness of the times; for some of his compositions are such as he must have reviewed with detestation in his later days, when he published those Sermons which Felton has commended.
Perhaps, like some other foolish young men, he rather talked than lived viciously, in an age when he that would be thought a wit was afraid to lay his prayers; and whatever might have been the first part of his life, it was surely condemned and reformed by his better judgement. ' In 1683, being then master of arts, and fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge, he wrote a poem on the marriage of the Lady Anne with George Prince of Denmark.
He took orders; and being made prebendary of Gloucester, became a proctor in convocation for that church, and chaplain to Queen
In 1710, he was presented by the bishop of Winchester to the wealthy living of Witney in Oxfordshire, which he enjoyed but a few months. On February 10, 1710-11, having returned from an entertainment, he was found dead the next morning. His death is mentioned in Swift's Journal.