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ICHOLAS ROWE was born at Little Beckford ? in Bedford- 1
= 1 shire in 1673. His family had long possessed a considerable estate with a good house at Lambertoun 3 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 opposition to the notions then diligently propagated, of dispensing power“, he ventured to remark how low his authors rated the prerogative 5. He was made a serjeant,
* *This Life,' wrote Nichols, 'is 1720, p. 36. a very remarkable instance of the ? Berkford.
The name is uncommon strength of Dr. Johnson's Little Barford. He was baptized memory. When I received from him there on June 30, 1674. N. & l. the MS. he complacently observed 7 S. xi. 105. that the criticism was tolerably well 3 In the Villare, Lamerton. JOHNdone, considering that he had not SON. Johnson refers to the Villare read one of Rowe's plays for thirty Anglicanum, or a View of the Cities, years.' Johnson's Letters, ii. 132 n. Towns and Villages in England,
Johnson wrote to Nichols : _In by Sir Henry Spelman, London, reading Rowe in your edition, which 1656, 4to. is very impudently called mine, I ob The power by which the King, served a little piece unnaturally and by remitting penalties, was 'comodiously obscene. I was offended, petent to annul virtually a penal but was still more offended when statute.' Macaulay's Hist. i. 32, 230, I could not find it in Rowe's genuine ii. 335; ante, MILTON, 4n. volumes. To admit it had been 5 He durst do this in the late wrong; to interpolate it is surely King James's reign, at a time when worse. If I had known of such a dispensing power was set up as ina piece in the whole collection, I herent in the Crown.' Rowe's Lucan, should have been angry. What can Preface, p. 37. It was in 1689, in be done?' In a note, Mr. Nichols the reign of William and Mary, that says that this piece 'has not only he published Les Reports de Guappeared in the Works of Rowe, but lielme Benloe, &c., and Les Reports has been transplanted by Pope into ...colligées par Gulielme Dalison. the Miscellanies he published in his In the Preface he writes :
-Some own name and that of Dean Swift.' resolutions are here reported, the Ib. ii. 158. For these Miscellanies like whereof are to be found nowhere see post, POPE, 141.
so exactly (as I could ever observe) Johnson's chief authority is a brief which relate to the Crown and account by James Welwood, M.D., Royal Prerogative, which do show prefixed to Rowe's Lucan's Pharsalia, what moderate notions were enterLIVES OF POETS. n
and died April 30, 1692. He was buried in the Temple
Church. 2 Nicholas was first sent to a private school 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. 3 At sixteen 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 endeavour to comprehend law, not as a series of precedents or collection of positive precepts, but as a system of rational government and
impartial justice *. 4 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 Step-mother, which was received with so much favours 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
tained by the Judges concerning ‘He was not content, as he told me, those matters in a very critical time.' to know the law as a collection of [Dalison was a judge of the Queen's statutes or customs only, but as Bench from about 1556-9. His Re a system founded upon right reason, ports, in conjunction with Sergeant and calculated for the good of manBendlowes', which come down to 16 kind.' Eliz., are 'a valuable record of the 5 Roscius Anglicanus, p. 61. cases of the time. Foss's Biog. 6 In the first edition, 'to the more Jurid. p. 210.]
elegant parts of writing.' I'The free-school built by Sir In 1742 Johnson described WilRoger Cholmondely.' HAWKINS, liam as 'arbitrary, insolent, gloomy, Johnson's Works, 1787, iii. 28. rapacious and brutal. ... He
2 'He was not elected till 1688.' had neither in great things nor in NICHOLS, Johnson's Works, 1825, vii. small the manners of a gentleman.' 407n.
Works, vi. 6. In 1775 he called him Ante, DRYDEN, 4.
one of the most worthless scoundrels - This is Johnson's paraphrase of that ever existed.' Boswell's
Johnson, the following passage by Welwood, ii. 342. See post, ADDISON, 17; in Rowe's Lucan, Preface, p. 38:- PRIOR, 13.
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 upon 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 6 probably, by the help of political auxiliaries, excited most applause; but occasional poetry must often content 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 7 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 assimilated to common life; the diction is exquisitely harmonious, and soft or spritely as occasion requires 3.
The character of Lothario seems to have been expanded by 8 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 of Richardson alone to teach us at once esteem and detestation ; to make virtuous resentment overpower all the benevolence which wit, elegance, and courage naturally excite, and to lose at last the hero in the villain 5.
* Garth, in a Prologue designed for Hannah More (Memoirs, i. 251), Tamerlane, says of William : wrote in 1782: You would have "To valour much he owes, to virtue enjoyed seeing Johnson take me by more;
the hand in the middle of dinner, and He fights to save, and conquers to repeat, with no small enthusiasm, restore;
many passages from The Fair Penis He strains no text, nor makes tent, &c.' dragoons persuade;
4 In Clarissa. He likes religion, but he hates the 5 For Johnson's high opinion of
trade.' Ēng. Poets, xxviii. 115. Richardson see Boswell's Johnson, ii. * See Appendix H.
9 The fifth act is not equal to the former : the events of the drama
are exhausted, and little remains but to talk of what is past' It has been observed that the title of the play does not sufficiently correspond with the behaviour of Calista, who at last shews no evident signs of repentance, but may be reasonably suspected of feeling pain from detection rather than from guilt, and expresses more shame than sorrow, and more rage than
shame. 10 His next (1706) was Ulysses ? ; which, with the common fate
of mythological stories >, is now generally neglected. We have been too early acquainted with the poetical heroes to expect any pleasure from their revival: to shew them as they have already been shewn is to disgust by repetition; to give them new qualities or new adventures is to offend by violating received
notions. 11 The Royal Convert (1708) seems to have a better claim to
longevity. The fable is drawn from an obscure and barbarous age, to which fictions are most easily and properly adapted; for when objects are imperfectly seen they easily take forms from imagination. The scene lies among our ancestors in our own country, and therefore very easily catches attention. Rhodogune is a personage truly tragical, of high spirit and violent passions, great with tempestuous dignity, and wicked with a soul that would have been heroic if it had been virtuous 4. The, motto 5
seems to tell that this play was not successful. 12 Rowe does not always remember what his characters require.
In Tamerlane there is some ridiculous mention of the God of Love; and Rhodogune, a savage Saxon, talks of Venus, and the
eagle that bears the thunder of Jupiter. 13 This play discovers its own date by a prediction of the Union,
I'It is a very good play for three a tragedy on Penelope's Lovers, acts; but failing in the two last where Ulysses is to be the hero.' answered not the Company's expec Works, v. 381. tation. Roscius Ang; p. 62. For Ante, BUTLER, 41. a ludicrous accident that one night Procopius may have suggested brought the play to an end with to Mr. Rowe the character and immoderate fits of laughter' see situation of Rodogune in the tragedy Biog. Dram. ii. 213.
of The Royal Convert. GIBBON, **This play, being all new cloathed The Decline and Fall, iv. 158 n. and excellently performed, had a 5 “Laudatur et alget' (Is praised successful run. Koscius Ang. p. 65. and starves). JUVENAL, Sat. i. 74. Addison wrote to A. Philips in a • It was produced on Nov. 25, 1707, letter conjecturally, but wrongly, dated and acted seven times.' Cunning1710:- Mr. Rowe has on the stocks ham's Lives of the Poets, ii. 108.
in imitation of Cranmer's prophetick promises to Henry the Eighth The anticipated blessings of union are not very naturally introduced, nor very happily expressed.
He once (17069) tried to change his hand. He ventured 14 on a comedy, and produced The Biter, with which, though it was unfavourably treated by the audience , he was himself delighted; for he is said to have sat in the house, laughing with great vehemence whenever he had in his own opinion produced a jest. But finding that he and the publick had no sympathy of mirth he tried at lighter scenes no more.
After The Royal Convert (1714) appeared Jane Shore, written, 15 as its author professes, 'in imitation of Shakespeare's style 5.' In what he thought himself an imitator of Shakespeare it is not easy to conceive. The numbers, the diction, the sentiments, and the conduct, every thing in which imitation can consist, are remote in the utmost degree from the manner of Shakespeare ; whose dramas it resembles only as it is an English story, and as some of the persons have their names in history. This play, consisting chiefly of domestick scenes and private distress, lays hold upon the heart. The wife is forgiven because she repents, and the
* Henry VIII, v. 5.
The title is The Tragedy of Jane * It was published in 1705. Biog. Shore. Written in Imitation of Dram. ii. 59. Addison wrote in the Shakespeare's Style. letter quoted ante, Rowe, 10 n. 2: I have seen a play professedly Mr. Rowe has promised the town writ in the style of Shakespeare, a farce this winter, but it does not wherein the resemblance lay in one yet appear.' Works, v. 381.
single line3 .There is an ingenious tribe of “And so good morrow t'ye, good men sprung up of late years who are master lieutenant.”' for making April fools every day in
Swift's Works, xiii. 53. the year. These gentlemen are com [The line is in Lady Jane Grey, v, monly distinguished by the name of 1: 'And so good morning, good,'&c.] Biters; a race of men that are per It was mighty simple in Rowe to petually employed in laughing at write a play now, professedly in those mistakes which are of their own Shakespeare's style, that is, proproduction.' ADDISON, The Spec- fessedly in the style of a bad age.' tator, No. 47.
POPE, Spence's Anec. p. 174. * Post, ROWE, 30. 'It had a six days' Post, ROWE, 32. Of the pathetic run; the six days running it out of in poetry,' writes Mrs. Piozzi, Johnbreath, it sickened and expired.' Ros son never liked to speak, and the cius Ang. p. 62. Congreve wrote on only passage I ever heard him applaud Dec. 9, 1704:— Rowe writ a foolish as particularly tender in any common farce called The Biter, which was book was Jane Shore's exclamation damned.' G.M. Berkeley's Lit. Relics, in the last actP. 342. It was printed in 1705. 'Forgive me! but forgive me."" $ It was produced on Feb. 2,
John. Misc. i. 283. 1713-4, and was acted nineteen times. "These few words,' wrote Dr. WarGenest's Hist. of the Stage, ii. 524. ton, 'far exceed the most pompous