Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/373

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Lee
Lee
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France, and Mrs. Betterton Marguerite, and it was published in the same year.

But Lee could not long resist temptation. According to Oldys, when returning one night y overladen with wine, from the Bear and Harrow in Butcher Row, through Clare Market to his lodgings in Duke Street, Lee 'fell down on the ground as some say, according to others on a bulk, and was killed or stifled in the snow ' (sic). He was buried in the parish church of St. Clement Danes on 6 May 1692 (Beg.) Oldys also states that a brother of Lee, living ' in or near the Isle of Axholme' — perhaps Richard Lee, vicar of Abbots Langley— nad in 1727 a trunkful of his writings, but the assertion has not been substantiated. A collected edition of Lee's tragedies appeared in 1713 in 2 vols. A later edition in vols, was issued in 1734, but some title-pages are dated two years later.

Many of Lee's plays long held the stage. The 'Rival Queens.' known by its second title of ' Alexander the Great' from 1772, was, according to Colley Cibber, in greater favour with the town than any other play in the early years of the eighteenth century. Its success, Cibber hinted, was due to the skill and fame of the actors (Mohun, Mountfort, and Betterton) who filled the leading parts, rather than to the literary merits of the piece. The rdle of Alexander was one of Betterton's most popular assumptions, and when he resigned the part, the play lost its hold on the playgoers* iavour. Colley Cibber produced a coarse parody called 'The Rival Queans, with the Humours of Alexander the Great, a Comical Tragedy,' one act of which appears to have been first acted at the Hay- market on 29 June 1710. It was first pub- lished, 'As it was acted at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane ' in 1729, at Dublin, where new editions of Lee's original play were issued in 1731 and 1760. A manuscript note in the British Museum copy suggests that the parody was often acted in Dublin with Theophilus Gibber in the chief character. But, despite ridicule, Lee's tragedy remained a stock fiece at the chief London theatres for nearly 60 years. Genest notes twenty-one revivals. Among the most interesting were two representations at Covent Garden Theatre (1 June 1808 and 17 Nov. 1822), in which Charles Kemble and Betty respectively played Alexander. Mrs. Powell appeared many times as Roxana. A revised version by J. P. Kemble was published in 1815. Gn 23 June 1823 Edmund Kean appeared as Alexander at Covent Garden, with Mrs. Glover as Roxana. 'Theodoeius' was hardly shorter-lived than 'Alexander.' Editions appeared in 1752, 1779, and 1782, and an altered version, called 'The Force of Love.' was published in Dublin in 1786. Kemble appeared as Varanes at Drury Lane, 20 Jan. 1797, with Mrs. Powell as Pulcheria. 'Mithridates' kept the stage for sixty years. In 1797 Kemble arranged a revival and carefully revised the piece, assigning the part of Ziphares to himself and that of Semandra to Mrs. Siddons. But Sheridan judged the experiment ridiculous, and the rehearsals were stopped, whereupon Kemble published his revised edition, and it was reissued in 1802. Kemble also put 'Œdipus' into rehearsal about the same time, but Mrs. Siddons's objections to the part of Jocasta led to an abandonment of the performance. Sir Walter Scott notes a revival of 'Œdipus' about 1778, when the audience, revolted by the plot, left the theatre after the third act. Tne 'Massacre of Paris' was revived, after an interval of thirty years, at Covent Garden in 1745, on account of its protestant bias and its applicability to the Jacobite rebellion. It was acted for three nights (31 Oct., 1-2 Nov.)

Lee was a student of the Elizabethans. In 'Mithridates' he claimed to have 'mixed Shakespeare with Fletcher' (ded.) In his dedication of 'Cæsar Borgia' to the seventh Earl of Pembroke, he reminded his patron of his ambition to stand towards him in the same relations as Ben Jonson stood to the third earl. He consoled himself for his disappointment at the suppression of his 'Brutus' by the reflection that Jonson's 'Catiline,' and even Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar,' had been subjected to somewhat similar insults. Throughout his tragedies Lee borrows phrases and turns of thought from Shakespeare. But it is in their barbaric extravagances rather than their rich vein of poetry t nat Lee resembles Shakespeare's contemporaries, and hardly any Elizabethan was quite so bombastic in expression and incident as Lee proved himself in his 'Cæsar Borgia.' 'It has often been observed against me,' he wrote in the dedication of his 'Theodosius,' 'that I abound in ungoverned fancy.' Yet sparks of genius glimmer about the meaningless and indecent rhapsodies which characterise most of his plays. Rochester, in his 'Session of the Poets,'

Confess'd that he had a musical note.
But sometimes strained so hard that it rattled in the throat.

Colley Cibber describes Lee's 'furious fustian' and turgid rant,' but admits that his verse displays 'a few great beauties,' although even these have 'extravagant blemishes.' Steele, 'writing in the 'Spectator' (No. 438, on 'Anger,' 23 July 1712), quotes from the 'Rival