Page images
PDF
EPUB

sired, only to drink and laugh: their fondness was without benevolence, and their fainiliarity without friendship. Men 'öf wit, says one of Otway's biographers, received at that time no favour from the great but to share their riots ; s from which they were dismissed again to their own nar. row circumstances. Thus they languished in poverty without the support of eminence.”

Some exception, however, must be made. The earl of Plymouth, one of king Charles's natural sons, procured for him a cornet's commission in some troops then (in 1677) sent into Flanders. But Otway did not prosper in bis military character: for he soon left bis commission behind him, whatever was the reason, and came back to London, where he resumed his dramatic labours. His next tragedy, . “ Caius Marius," was acted in 1680, and had some success, probably from the author's availing himself of the clamour about the popish plot, and artfully applying the dissentions of Marius and Scylla to the factious in the reign of Charles II. ' But a higher degree of fame awaited him from his admirable tragedy, “ The Orphan,” which appeared the same year, “one of the few pieces,” says Dr. Johnson, “that keep possession of the stage, and has pleased for almost (more than a century, through all the vicissitudes of dramatic fashion. Of this play nothing new can easily be said. It is a domestic 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." On a tragedy that has produced such effects for so great a length of time, minute criticism would be but idly employed. In this, too, some political allusions have been conjectured, but to us they appear too obscure for application, and were they otherwise, cannot now be felt.

The “ Soldier's Fortune," and its second part “ The Atheist,” produced in 1681 and 1684, were both success. ful, but better suited to the manners of that age than to those of the present. The incidents and characters in both may be traced to other plays, and neither is worthy of the talents which, in 1682, gave to the theatre “ Venice Preserved," a tragedy, whose permanent fame, like that of the Orphan, renders it only vecessary to say that his powers of poetry and of language were now exerted with greater energy. "The striking passages are in every mouth; and the public seems to judge rightly of the faults and excellancts of this play, that it is the work of a may not

attentive to deceney, nor zealous for virtue; but of one wbo conceived forcibly, and drew originally, by consulting nature in his own breast. . .

Together with those plays he wrote the poems which were admitted in Dr. Johnson's series of the Poets; and he translated from the French the “ History of the Triumrirate." · All this was performed before he was thirty-four years old; for he died April 14, 1685, “ in a manner,” says Dr. Johnson, “ which I am unwilling to mention. Having been compelled by his necessities to contract debts, and bunted, as is supposed, by the terriers of the law, he retired to a public-house (the Bull, according to Antbony Wood), on Tower-bill, where he is said to have 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 bad supplied. He went out, as is reported, almost naked in the rage of hunger, and, finding a gentleman in a heighbouring 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; and there is this ground of better hope, tbat Pope, who lived near enough to be well informed, relates in Spence's Memorials, that he died of a ferer caught by violent pursuit of a thief that bad robbed one of his friends. But that indigence, and its concomitants, sorrow and despondency, pressed hard upon him, has never been denied, whatever immediate cause might bring him to the grave.”

Pope's account of Otway's death was first related by Dr. Warton in the notes to his “ Essay on Pope," and in the following words : “ Otway had an intimate friend who was murdered (not robbed) in the street. One may guess at his sorrow, who has so feelingly described true affection in his « Venice Preserved. He pursued the murderer on foot, who fled to France, as far as Dover, where he was seized with a fever, occasioned by the fatigue, which afterwards carried him to his grave in London.” The robber, we find, is by this account a murderer, and as Dr. Warton was always more correct as to minor facts than Dr. Jobnson, it is probable that he relates the story as he heard it, but it is to be traced to Spence, who was informed by Dennis, the critic, , that “ Otway had a friend, one Blakiston, who was shot; the murderer Aed towards Dover, and Otway pur

sued him. In his return he drank water, when violently heated, and so got the fever which was the death of him.” And Dennis in the Preface to his “ Observations on Pope's translation of Homer," 1717, 8vo, says, “ Otway died in an alehouse," which is not inconsistent with the preceding account, as he generally lived in one; but whether the story of the guinea and the loaf can be introduced with any probability to heighten the poet's distress, we do not pretend to determine. It would not perhaps be very wrong · to conjecture that both accounts might be true, but his contemporaries have left us no precise documents. Dr. Johnson has remarked that Otway appears by some of his verses to bave been a zealous loyalist, and had what was in those times the common reward of loyalty,-he lived and died neglected.

In one of the papers of Dr. Goldsmith's “ Bee,” we have an additional particular respecting Otway's death, not wholly uninteresting. It is said that when he died be had about him the copy of a tragedy, which he had sold for a trifle to Bentley the bookseller; and this fact is con. firmed by the following advertisement, which appeared in L'Estrange's Observator for November 27, 1686, and for December 4. “Whereas Mr. Thomas Otway some time before his death, made four Acts of a Play, whoever can give notice in whose hands the copy lies, either to Mr. Thomas Betterton, or to Mr. William Smith, at the Theatre Royal, shall be well rewarded for his pains.” It does not appear that this play was ever discovered, but in 1719 a tragedy was printed, entitled “ Heroic Friendship,” and attributed to him without any foundation. It never, however, was acted, or deserved to be acted. ..

When Otway first began to rise into reputation, Dryden spoke slightingly of his performances, but afterwards acknowledged their merit, though perhaps somewhat coldly. In his preface to Du Fresnoy, he says, “ To express the passions which are seated in the heart by outward signs, is one great precept of the painter's, and very difficult to perform. In poetry the very same passions and motions of the mind are to be expressed ; and in this consists the. principal difficulty, as well as the excellency of that art. Tbis (says Du Fresnoy) is the gift of Jupiter ; and to speak in the same heatben language, we call it the gift of our Apollo, not to be obtained by pains or study, if we are not born to it. For the motions which are studied, are never

so natural as those which break out in the height of a real passion. Mr. Otway possessed this part as thoroughly as any of the ancients and moderns. I will not defend every thing in his ! Venice Preserved; but I must bear this testimony to his memory, that the passions are truly touched in it, though perhaps there is somewhat to be desired both in the grounds of them, and in the height and elegance of expression. But nature is there, which is the greatest beauty.” This is high praise from Dryden, who could not but be conscious that Otway excelled him in the pathetic.'

OUDIN (CASIMIR), a learned French monk, originally of a family of Rheims, was born at Mezieres, Feb. 11, 1638. His father was a weaver, and designed to breed him to his own business; but the son's inclination leading him to literature, he retired in 1656, against the will of his parents, among the Premontrés, passed his noviciate in the abbey of Verdun, and made his profession in November, 1658. He was afterwards sent into France, 'where he spent four years in the studies of philosophy and theology, with, how. ever, very little assistance from his masters, who were very ignorant; he then applied bimself particularly to ecclesiastical history, which was his favourite study. Thus employed, he remained in obscurity for twenty years, among those of his order, when his talents became known by one of those apparently accidental circumstances which give a turn to the lives of men. His superiors happened to place him in 1678, in the abbey of Bucilly, in Champagne, and Lewis XIV. on a journey in 1680, coming to this abbey, stopped to dine. It was usual for such a guest to receive the compliments of the society; and when Oudin found that all the monks were afraid to appear, in order to address bis majesty, he undertook the task, and acquitted himself so well, that the king and court were surprized to find, in so savage and solitary a place, a person of so much address and good sense; and his majesty, greatly pleased with his reception, ordered the abbey a purse of fifty louis d'ors. Oudin's abilities being thus discovered, he was sent in 1614, by Michael Colbert, the principal and reformergeneral of this order, to visit the abbeys and churches belonging to them, and to take from their archives whatsoever might be of use in his history. On this occasion he went to all the convents in the Netherlands, returned to France with a large collection of historical documents, and in 1685 made the same researches in Lorrain, Burgundy, and Alsace. In 1688 he published “A Supplement of the Eo, clesiastical Writers, omitted by Bellarmine," a work which did him much honour, under the title “ Supplementum de scriptoribus vel scriptis ecclesiasticis a Bellarmino omissis, ad annum 1460, vel ad artem typographicam inventam.” He published afterwards a complete body of those works, with the title of “ Commentarius de scriptoribus ecclesim antiquis, illorumque scriptis, adhunc extantibus in celebrioribus Europæ bibliothecis, a Bellarmino, Possevino, Phil. Labbeo, Gul. Caveo, Ellio, Du Pin,” &c. 3 vols, folio. This is his principal work; but if we may believe Le Clerc, our author did not understand either Greek or Latin sufficient for it; and it certainly abounds in errors, a great many of which, bowever, belong to the press.

1 Life by Dr. Johnson.--Cibber's Lives.-Malone's Dryden.-Spence's Anec. dotes, MS-Life prefixed to the last edition of his Works, 2 vols. 8vo.

In 1690 he quitted France and went to Leyden, where he embraced the Protestant religion, and was made underlibrarian of the university; and continued at Leyden till his death, which happened in Sept. 1717. He was the author, or rather collector of some other things, among which are, “ Veterum aliquot Galliæ & Belgiæ scriptorum opuseula sacra," Leyden, 1692; « Trias dissertationum Criticarum," ibid. 1718.

OUDIN (FRANCIS), a learned French Jesuit, was born November 1, 1673, at Vignory, in Champagne. He was carefully educated at Langres, by an uncle, who was an ecclesiastic, and began his noviciate among the Jesuits in 1691. His uncle bequeathed bis an annuity of 400 livres on condition of his residing either at Paris or Dijon. Accordingly he settled at Dijon, where he taught rhetoric fifteen years, and theology fifteen years more, with great applause. Besides Greek and Latin, he understood Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and English, and had particularly studied antiquities, both sacred and profane. Father Oudin undertook to write commentaries on the whole Bible, but could not finish them, being employed by father Francis Retz, general of his order, in a general history, or Bibliotheque of authors belonging to the Jesuits. This important work had been begun by father Ribadeneira, and carried on to 1618. Alegambe continued it to 1643, and Sotwel to 1673. Other Jesuits were afterwards

1 Niceron, vols. I. and X.-Moreri.

« PreviousContinue »