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Otway
Otway
350


torments of starvation, the dramatist begged a shilling of a gentleman in a neighbouring coffee-house on 14 April 1685. The gentleman gave him a guinea, whereupon Otway bought a roll, and was choked by the first mouthful. The authenticity of these details may well be questioned ; they rest on no contemporary testimony, and did not find admission into Otway's biography until sixty-eight years after his death. Wood and Langbaine both state that he was writing verse up to the time of his death.

Otway was buried on 16 April 1685 in the churchyard of St. Clement Danes. A mural tablet, with a long Latin inscription, was placed, in the last century, in the church at Trotton, his birthplace, and is still extant there. He is described as 'poetarum tragicorum qui Britannia enotuerunt facile princeps.' 'His person was of the middle size, about 5 ft. 7 in. in height, inclinable to fatness. He had a thoughtful, speaking eye' (Oldys, Notes on Langbaine ; Gent. Mag. 1745, p. 99). Dryden wrote of his ' charming' face, and Sir Peter Lely, Mrs. Beale, Ryley, and Knapton all seem to have painted his portrait. Lely's picture was reproduced in mezzotint by William Faithorne, jun. ; Mrs. Beale's picture was engraved in 1741 by Houbraken while it was in the possession of Gilbert West, the poet ; that by Ryley was drawn by J. Thurston and engraved by T. Bragg while it was in the possession of T. H. Prentice. According to Oldys, 'there is an excellent beautiful original picture of Mr. Otway, who was a fine, portly, graceful man, now among the poetical collection of the Lord Chesterfield. I think it was painted by John Ryley, in a full-bottom wig, and nothing like that quakerish figure which Knapton has imposed on the world,'

Two authentic works by Otway were published posthumously. 'Windsor Castle : a Monument to our late Sovereign K. Charles II of ever Blessed Memory,' a poor panegyric, appeared in quarto in the year of Otway's death. Perhaps Wood made a confused allusion to this work when he wrote : 'In his sickness he was composing a congratulatory poem on the inauguration of King James II.' Next appeared an unattractive ?rose translation from the French : 'The listory of the Triumvirates : the first that of Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus ; the second that of Augustus, Anthony, and Lepidus; being a faithful collection from the best historians and other authors concerning that revolution of the Roman government which hapned under their authority. Written originally in French, and made English by Tho. Otway, lately deceased,' London, 8vo. Langbaine, who noted Otway's special affection for punch, says that 'the last thing he made before his death' was 'an excellent song on that liquor.' This may be identical with a drinking-song, not included in Otway's collected work, which Mr. E. F. Rimbault printed from a manuscript source in 'Notes and Queries' in 1852.

Otway left an unfinished tragedy which, according to Langbaine, was 'more excellent than all of them,' but was 'by some malicious or designing persons suppressed, either hereafter to set up a reputation to themselves by owning it, or to procure a profit by selling it for their own' (Dramatic Poets, p. 107). The piece is noticed in an advertisement in the 'London Gazette' 25-9 Nov. 1686, and in L'Estrange's 'Obsenator' of 27 Nov. 1686: 'Whereas Mr. Thomas Otway sometime 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 the missing copy came to light. In 1719 a feebly bombastic tragedy, called 'Heroick Friendship, a tragedy by the late Mr. Otway,' was published in London. The publisher vaguely asserts that it is probably Otway's work ; but it has no intrinsic claim to that distinction.

In his own day all Otway's work was popular.

There was a time when Otway charm'd the stage ;
Otway, the hope, the sorrow of our age ;
When the full pitt with pleas'd attention hung
Wrap'd with each accent from Castotio's tongue;
With what a laughter was his Soldier read,
How mourned they when his Jaffier struck and bled!

('Satyr on the Poets,' in Poems on Affairs of State, 1698, pt. iii. p. 55).

In comedy Otway's efforts were contemptible, and excepting his adaptation of Moliere's 'Scapin,' of which Genest notes nine revivals between 1706 and 1812, none long held the stage. As the author of 'Venice Preserved,' Otway, however, proved himself a tragic dramatist worthy to rank with the greatest of Shakespeare's contemporaries. But he was the disciple of no English predecessor. Well read in the writings of Shakespeare, he paid equal attention to those of Racine, and in 'Venice Preserved' these two influences are visible in equal degrees. The plot was drawn from the Abbé St. Réal's 'Conjuration des Espagnols contre la Venise en 1618,' of which an English translation had appeared in 1675. But Otway modified the story at many