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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 42.djvu/354

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Otway
Otway
348


volume, which was dedicated to Lord Rochester. A reprint appeared in 1701. Mrs. Barry played in both pieces ; Betterton only in the tragedy, where he took the role of Tit us. The farce kept the stage till the present century. The approval bestowed on his version of ' Scapin encouraged Otway to try his fortune in comedy. His first original comedy, 'Friendship in Fashion' (in prose), was licensed for performance at Dorset Gardens on 31 May 1678. The dedication of the published version (1678) was accepted by the Earl of Dorset and Middlesex, who had already patronised 'Alcibiades.' Betterton played 'Goodvile, the hero, and Mrs. Barry the heroine, Mrs. Goodvile. The tone is frankly indecent, and its interest centres in very flagrant breaches of the marriage tie ; but it was considered at the time to be 'very diverting,' and won 'general applause' (Langbaine). A change in public taste and moral feeling led, however, to its being summarily hissed off the stage when, after an interval of thirty years, it was revived at Drury Lane on 22 Jan. 1749-60, with Mrs. Clive in the part of Lady Squeamish.

Otway had no lack of noble patrons. The king's natural son, Charles FitzCharles, earl of Plymouth, and his old fellow-student, Lord Falkland, were among them, together with the Duke of York, Rochester, and Middlesex, whom he had eulogised in very fulsome dedications. His humbler friends included the small poet Richard Duke [q. v.], with whom he exchanged complimentary verses, and Shadwell, according to Rochester, was Otway's 'dear zany.' But his indulgence in drink threatened his prospects, and his amours caused him frequent embarrassment. For the actress Mrs. Barry, who filled leading Earts in the initial performances of nearly all is plays, he conceived an absorbing passion, which largely contributed to the ruin of his career. The lady became Lord Rochester's mistress, and treated her humbler admirer with coquettish disdain. Rochester, indignant at the presumption of his youthful protege, avenged himself by some insolent lines on Otway in his 'Session of the Poets.' Six passionate letters from Otway to Mrs. Barry appeared in 'Familiar Letters ... by John, late Earl of Rochester,' 1697 (pp. 77 sqq.), and have often been reprinted with Otway's works.

Rendered desperate by the actress's scorn, and kept poor by his excesses, Otway enlisted in the army sent in 1678 to Holland. On 10 Feb. in that year he obtained a commission, through the favour of Lord Plymouth, as ensign in the Duke of Monmouth's regiment of foot. He remained in the Low Countries throughout the year, receiving on 1 Nov. a commission as lieutenant to Captain Baggott, in Monmouth's regiment (Dalton, English Army List, i. 208, 222).

Late in 1679 Otway had returned to London. His military excursion had not improved his pecuniary position or his health, and he lost no opportunity in later life of lamenting the hardships which soldiers had to face. But his abstinence from literary effort matured his powers, and in his next tragedy, 'The Orphan,' he proved himself a master of tragic pathos. Here he employed for the first time blank verse, and never abandoned it in his later tragedies. 'The Orphan' was produced in February 1680, at Dorset Gardens, with Betterton as Castalio, Mrs. Barry in the famous part of Monimia, the injured heroine, and Mrs. Bracegirdle, then a girl of six, as Cordelio, a pert page (Genest, i. 279). Castalio remained one of Betterton's favourite parts (Cibber, Apology, ed. Lowe, i. 1 16). In the prologue Otway betrayed strong tory sympathies by enthusiastically congratulating the Duke of York on his return from Scotland. The published edition of 1680 was dedicated to the Duchess of York.

Less successful was his 'History and Fall of Caius Marius,' which Betterton produced very soon after 'The Orphan.' Otway, who had apparently written part of it while abroad, acknowledged in the prologue that half was borrowed from Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet.' With his Shakespearean excerpts he combined reminiscences of Plutarch's 'Life of Marius.' Lavinia, who is Otway's adaptation of Juliet, was played by Mrs. Barry ; but such enthusiasm as the performance evoked was due to the acting of Underbill and Nokes in the characters respectively of Sulpitius (an adaptation of Mercutio) and the Nurse. The play, which Otway dedicated to Lord Falkland, was revived 18 Feb. 1707 for Wilks's benefit at the Hay market, when the part of Lavinia was undertaken by Mrs. Bracegirdle (Genest, ii. 365); and two other revivals at Drury Lane in 1715 and 1717 are noted by Genest. Reprints of the published version are dated 1692 and 1696.

In 1681 Otway composed his second comedy, 'The Soldier's Fortune,' in which he incidentally turned to account his disappointing experiences as a soldier in Flanders. It 'took extraordinarily well' (Downes), but its coarseness exceeded that of the most dissolute productions of the day. Otway, by way of defending his work against the charge of indecency which some ladies (he lamented) raised against it, quoted Mrs. Behn's remark, that 'she wondered at the impudence of any of her sex who would pretend to an