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way; but, when you became another's, I must confess I did then rebel, had foolish pride enough to promise myself I would in time recover my liberty; in spite of my enslaved nature, I swore against myself I would not love you; I affected a resentment, stifled my spirit, and would not let it bend so much as once to upbraid you; each day it was my chance to see or be near you with stubborn sufferance I resolved to bear and brave your power; nay, did it often too successfully. Generally with wine or conversation I diverted or appeased the demon that possessed me; but when at night returning to my unhappy self, to give my heart an account why I had done it so unnatural a violence, it was then I always paid a treble interest for the short moments of ease which I had borrowed; then every treacherous thought rose up, and took your part, nor left me till they had thrown me on my bed and opened those sluices of tears that were to run till morning. This has been for years my best condition. . . . I love you with that tenderness of spirit, that purity of truth, and that sincerity of heart, that I could sacrifice the nearest friends or interests I have on earth, barely but to please you if I had all the world it should be yours, for with it I could be but miserable if you were not mine. . . . I love, I dote, I am mad and know no measure. I charm and here conjure you to pity my distracting pangs; pity my unquiet days and restless nights; pity the frenzy that has half-possessed my brain already, and makes me write thus ravingly; the wretch in Bedlam is more at peace than I am. . . . Everything you do is a new charm to me; and though I have languished for seven long tedious years of desire, jealousy, and despair, yet every minute I see you, I still discover something new and more bewitching. . . . You can not but be sensible I am blind, or you would not so openly discover what a ridiculous tool you make of me. I should be glad to discover whose satisfaction I was sacrificed to this morning; for I am sure your own ill nature could not be guilty of inventing such an injury to me, merely to try how much I could bear, were it not for the sake of some ass that has the fortune to please you you, whose business in life is to pick ill-natured conjectures out of my harmless freedom of conversation to vex and gall me with, as often as you are pleased to divert yourself at the expense of my quiet."
In the last of these letters he upbraids her for breaking an appointment she has made to meet him in the Mall. Not content with turning a deaf ear to all his solicitations, it is evident that this cruel, heartless woman made them a subject of ridicule and amusement for her aristocratic lovers. Devotion and genius could produce no
impression upon a heart that, according to contemporary authority, was wholly given up to avarice. Otway was poor, and, with the exception that he had the intellectual beauty of fine eyes, his face was very ordinary; for he says in one of these letters: "I find how careless Nature was in framing me; seasoned me hastily with all the most violent inclinations and desires, but omitted the ornaments that should make those qualities become me."* Here was not the man to charm Elizabeth Barry. Yet it is a strange psychological problem that she who could portray so exquisitely all the tenderness, passion, and the abandon of the purest, noblest love should be herself insensible to it.
But to return to his dramatic career. In 1677 he produced a translation of Racine's "Bérénice," under the title of "Titus and Berenice," and with it, as an afterpiece, an adaptation from Molière, called "The Cheats of Scapin," neither of which calls for any notice. In 1678 he composed his first comedy, "Friendship in Fashion," a work utterly unworthy of his pen, for while, like all the comedies of the Restoration, it is grossly licentious, it is destitute of the wit and elegance which frequently redeemed them. Yet it suited the taste of the age, and seems to have been highly successful.
Ere it was produced, however, Otway had started upon a new career. It could not be supposed that, loving as he did, he could long remain on amicable terms with his successful rival, even although that rival was that almost indispensable thing to a poet of that age, a generous patron. He and Rochester quarreled, and he thus made one of the bitterest and most malignant enemies that it was possible for man to be cursed with. He was at once attacked by all the host of libelers and so-called critics whom the Earl had at his command, and, in the dedication to "Friendship in Fashion," he complains of being treated worse by them than a bear was by the Bankside butchers. This baiting and badgering, and a desperate effort to break from the toils of his hopeless passion, caused him to abandon literature-for ever, as he probably anticipated, but for only a very short time, as it fell out. The young Earl of Plymouth, a natural son of the King's, and his stanchest friend, procured
*This thought is again beautifully expressed by Jaffier ("Venice Preserved," Act I., Scene 1): "Tell me why, good Heaven,
Thou mad'st me what I am, with all the spirit,
him a cornet's commission in a regiment which, under the command of the Duke of Monmouth, was bound for Flanders. Here, apparently, was a new and honorable career opened to the unhappy man. But Fortune is never weary of persecuting some of her victims. Within a few months King Charles, in consideration of a secret bribe from Louis XIV., had consented to disband his army in order that the French might dictate their own terms to the confederates, and the peace of Nimiguen cast our poet destitute upon the world. Nothing could exceed the shameful treatment suffered by the discharged English soldiers who were left destitute in a foreign land, to get home again as best they could, with only debentures in their pockets, which it was extremely difficult to cash, instead of their pay. In his next comedy, "The Soldier's Fortune," Otway alludes to this adventure in a speech put into the mouth of Courtine: "'Twas Fortune made me a soldier, a rogue in red, the grievance of the nation; Fortune made the peace just when we were on the brink of a war; then Fortune disbanded us, and lost us two months' pay; Fortune gave us debentures instead of ready money, and by very good fortune I sold mine and lost heartily by it, in hopes the grinding illnatured dog who bought it will never get a shilling for it." Rochester, in "The Session of the Poets," describes Otway as returning to England starving, ragged, and vermin-stricken.
During his brief camp-life his pen had not been idle. In the epilogue to "Caius Marius" he says:
"For know our poet, when this play was made,
"But which amongst you is there to be found,
*The receipts of the third day's performance of a play were all the dramatists of this period usually received for their labors. How small was the remunera
tion may be judged by the above mention of fifty pounds
as a doubtful sum.
"Caius Marius is a curiosity of dramatic literature; for while the subject is the wars of Marius and Sylla, the plot of "Romeo and Juliet" and a great portion of the language of that play are bodily incorporated with it—as Otway indeed confesses in the prologue. Romeo is rechristened Marius Junior, and Juliet becomes the daughter of Metellus, a Roman senator. Mercutio is called Sulpitius, and speaks the Queen Mab speech, sadly mutilated, however, and much more of the admirable wit of the part; but when he ceases to speak the language of Shakespeare he becomes a very stilted and bloodthirsty Roman-indeed, quite a different person. Sylla stands for Paris; and Lavinia's nurse in the language of Juliet's, calls him "a man of wax.” The nurse's scenes are given almost intact, as are also the balcony and the death-scenes. In the latter Otway anticipates Garrick's alteration, and makes Lavinia awake before her husband's death, which is much in accordance with the story upon which the play is founded. Friar Lawrence is turned into a Flamen, and is the same important instrument in the catastrophe that he is in the original; all his fine speeches, however, are omitted. A more extraordinary piece of patchwork can not be conceived than this work. Otway writes at his worst, and the splendid fragments of Shakespeare that are scattered among his rubbish, without any attempt-or if there be it is not apparent-to weld these incongruous elements into anything like an homogeneous whole; the tone and style of the Marius scenes have not any keeping with those of the borrowed ones, and the transition from one to the other is most violent. Yet this monstrous production usurped the place of Shakespeare's beautiful play upon the stage for about seventy years, until Theophilus Cibber brought out a version of the original, during his brief management at the Haymarket in 1748; and Garrick at Drury Lane, and Rich at Covent Garden, soon afterward repeated the laudable experiment. But still the work was marred by many interpolations, and Garrick's alterations are even now preserved in the prompt-books of country theatres.
"The Soldier's Fortune," although set down in the "Biographia Dramatica" as produced in 1681, I should conjecture, from the passage I have previously quoted, which alludes so directly to his recent military adventures, was written and acted at least two years earlier. The remarks upon "Friendship in Fashion " apply with equal force to this second comedy.
The year 1680 opened propitiously for our poet. His bitter enemy, Rochester, worn out with debauchery, was, in his thirty-fourth year, lying upon his death-bed, and it was during this season that the first of Otway's two immortal
works, "The Orphan," was brought upon the stage. The plot of this play is derived from a romance published in 1676, entitled "English Adventures," in which is introduced, as an episode, a story of the supposed early life of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. The romance, which upon the title-page is said to have been written by "a person of honor," is conjectured by one of Otway's editors to have been the composition of Lord Orrery. Whether this remarkable history had any foundation in truth is more than doubtful; it may be briefly told. Charles Brandon and his brother, who have been reared in the retirement of a country mansion, both fall in love with a very beautiful orphan who has been left to the guardianship of their mother, and who resides under the same roof with them. The brother is the favored suitor, and secretly marries the lady without taking Charles into his confidence. On the nuptial night Charles overhears their assignation-"three soft taps" at the bride's chamber-door will be the signal for the bridegroom's admittance, but he must not speak, as his mother lies in the next room. Furious with disappointed passion at his brother's deceit, and having no thought that it is more than a mere intrigue he is crossing, he resolves to contrive some means of keeping his brother out of the way and taking his place. He succeeds too well. The catastrophe is a tragic one: the innocent adulteress dies of a broken heart upon the discovery of the treason, and her husband soon follows her to the grave, while Charles, stung with remorse and horror, becomes a wanderer in foreign lands.* The story is closely adhered to in Otway's play, and here and there passages are transcribed almost verbatim; but the catastrophe is more powerfully wrought out than in the original, and two new characters are introduced -Chamont, the heroine's brother, a hot-headed and somewhat brutal young soldier, and the father of the two brothers, Acasto, a brave, noble man who, disgusted with the falseness and ingratitude of courts, has retired from the world. This character, it has been suggested, was meant to typify the Duke of Ormond, whom Charles had treated so ungratefully, and whose administration in Ireland was then being so fiercely decried by the Shaftesbury faction. A speech put into his mouth in the first scene of the second act gives considerable probability to the conjec
From the first to the last scene of this powerful play we have everywhere indications of a master hand; rhyme, which had long since been abandoned by Dryden himself, is here replaced
*The episode is given entire in Thornton's edition of Otway's works.
by a vigorous and not unmusical blank verse. We are prepared for the catastrophe with consummate art. The opening scene acquaints us with the rivalry of the two brothers for the love of Monimia; and, in spite of their protestations of mutual affection, we can perceive the dark clouds gathering in the distance. Polydore is a little jealous of his brother as being the elder, and Castalio, half ashamed of his honorable intentions, but sure of the lady's preference, speaks almost lightly of his love, and challenges Polydore to win her if he can. In the second act portents of the coming doom begin to appear. Chamont arrives and tells his sister how he has seen her in a dream, her 'garments flowing loose, and in each hand a wanton lover, which by turns caressed her"; and how, on his way to Acasto's house, he was met by a witch who bade him hasten to save a sister. His fiery and impatient questionings sound like the mutterings of a coming storm. Polydore sets on his page to watch the lovers; the boy reports to him the passionate love-scene of which he is the witness, and leaves him brooding over revenge. While the chaplain is reading the marriage service, a dark foreboding falls upon the gentle bride, tears drown her eyes, and trembling seizes her soul. It would be difficult to find a scene of more breathless suspense in the whole range of the drama than that in which Polydore, having overheard the appointment, approaches the bridal chamber. Will he succeed in his horrible design? is our anxious thought as he communes with himself in soliloquy. He gives the signalit is answered-the door is unbolted, and he goes in. There is a pause of horror. Then Castalio enters, repeats the signal, and, treated as an impostor by Monimia's maid, who appears at a window above, is refused admittance. In the next act Castalio, furious at what he considers his wife's perfidy and caprice, yet never dreaming of the terrible truth, casts her off. While she is lost in wonder and distress at his strange conduct, of which rage prevents him giving any explanation, Polydore enters. Believing that it was he who gave the second signal on the previous night, she upbraids him with his conduct. Suddenly his confident air and ambiguous words arouse a horrible suspicion. Tremblingly she cries:
"Will you be kind and answer me one question? I'll conjure you by the gods and angels,
By th' honor of your name that's most concerned,
"Within thy arms," is the reply.
With a cry of horror she falls into a swoon. But soon he learns the terrible truth that over
For I must love thee, though it prove my ruin.
What shall I do to be enough thy slave,
But she can not speak her shame; she dares not let loose the horrors of revenge that must follow such a revelation: she can but tell him they must never meet more, and implore him to forbear inquiring further. But again he bursts forth in passionate entreaty:
Why turn'st thou from me? I'm alone already.
I should know all, for love is pregnant in 'em:
Ah, poor Castalio!"* is all Monimia can reply as she rushes from him. Then enters Polydore, and now with another masterly stroke of art Otway makes Castalio turn to him, the villain who has wrought all the mischief, for consolation. Mad, desperate, seeking death at his brother's hands, Polydore breaks into pretended rage at his deceit in not making him a confidant of his marriage, and heaps the most opprobrious epithets upon his head in the hope of stinging him to a quarrel. But Castalio has only gentle remonstrances to oppose to his reproaches:
"Oh! think a little what thy heart is doing:
E'en in the womb we embraced, and wilt thou
For the first fault, abandon and forsake me?
Plunged in the gulf of grief, and none to help
But Polydore persists in his purpose, calls him base-born villain, coward-until, goaded beyond dore rushes upon the point. Then with his dyendurance, Castalio draws his sword-and Polying breath he confesses the foul wrong he has done. But in the words
"Hadst thou, Castalio, used me like a friend,
This ne'er had happened; hadst thou let me know
wretched brother the Nemesis of his own dupli-
The male characters of "The Orphan," with the exception of Acasto, have few virtues to commend them to our sympathy. Chamont, who, although the part was played by Garrick in his earlier years, has little to do with the movement of the plot, shocks us by his ruffianly language to the good Acasto, and rages and storms with brutal vehemence upon the smallest provocation; Polydore naturally excites our abhorrence, and until affliction has fallen upon him even Castalio does not stand high in our esteem. But Monimia is a creation of female purity and gentleness worthy to stand by the side of Desdemona, and it is impossible to give her higher praise. The pathos of tragedy could scarcely go beyond the awful destiny which Fate weaves around this lovely and innocent victim. That pruriency of thought which in the nineteenth century is mistaken for modesty, and the cynical, sensual coarseness of an audience vitiated by burlesque, have long since banished this noble work from the stage, although incidents, allusions, and double entendres, as long as they are free of poetical clothing, are still freely tolerated.
In the same year as that in which "The Orphan" appeared, Otway published his one important poem, "The Poet's Complaint of his Muse," from which I have made extracts. Its principal value consists in the light it throws upon
* Mrs. Barry used to produce a wonderful effect in his own early life, and its reference to the politi
cal factions of the time.
In 1682 came his masterpiece, "Venice Preserved." The plot of this tragedy is founded upon St. Réal's "Conjuration des Espagnols," and is the story of a famous conspiracy plotted for the destruction of the Venetian Republic in 1618. It may be interesting, to those unacquainted with this episode of history, to know that Jaffier and Pierre are historical characters. Pierre was a corsair captain in the service of the republic, a bold, daring spirit; Jaffier was also in the service of the state. One or two of the scenes, notably the meeting of the conspirators, are almost literal transcriptions from the Abbé's book; but the arrangement of the plot and incidents, the catastrophe, and the one supreme character, Belvidera, are Otway's own. While, if possible, exceeding even "The Orphan" in tenderness, there is more masculine power, a firmer grasp of character in "Venice Preserved" than in any other of its author's works. The gay, bold villain Pierre, who in the hour of despair rises to an heroic virtue, is well contrasted with the more gentle, passionate, yet somewhat weakminded Jaffier; both, as true and sharply drawn studies of human nature, are greatly superior to Polydore and Castalio; while Monimia's is but an outline beside the more finished portrait of her Venetian sister. Belvidera is all woman; honor, faith, in the masculine sense of those words, all the world she is ready to sacrifice for the safety of the man she loves. What is it to her that he has pledged himself, that men have trusted their lives to his keeping, and that his treachery will be their destruction? She can see but one form stretched upon the rack, but one head laid upon the block-so that that be saved, let all perish! Wedded lovers are usually insipid upon the stage as well as in romances, and it is no slight indication of Otway's genius that it has succeeded in surrounding the loves of this unhappy pair with such beautiful romance and absorbing pathos. During the last century the fine lines and passages of this play were as frequently quoted as those of Shakespeare, and such speeches as the following have a familiar ring even at the present day, when this noble work is no longer represented upon the stage:
"Can there in woman be such glorious faith?
There are few passages in English dramatic poetry that in passionate tenderness can surpass the following speech of Belvidera to her husband:
"Though the bare earth be all our resting-place,
But no string of detached quotations could give an adequate idea of the pathos and beauty that pervade every scene between this ill-starred pair. As in "The Orphan," the catastrophe is led up to with consummate dramatic art. In the first scene, the relentless Priuli, Belvidera's father, thrusts the ruined Jaffier from his doors, refusing all assistance to his poverty; in this moment of fierce despair the desperate man encounters the conspirator Pierre, the chosen friend of his heart, who has just come from his house, and who tells him that all his goods are seized by the law, and that his wife is homeless:
"Hadst thou but seen, as I did, how at last
Kindly looked up and at her grief grew sad,
Governed their roaring throats and grumbled pity;
To you, sirs, and your honors, I bequeath her, And with her this; when I prove unworthy[Gives dagger.
You know the rest-then strike it to her heart."
But Renault, to whom she is confided, proves false to his trust, and at night invades her chamber. In a scene of great power she reveals to her husband the gross indignity she has suffered. Then for the first time he explains to her the nature of the plot to which he has engaged him