234 Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
it could not have had much success. Otway's genius did not lie towards comedy, which became mere buffoonery in his hands, or worse than that.
A break now takes place in Otway's career as a dramatic author; he accepted a commission as cornet in some troops sent by the English Government into Flanders, and underwent some of the hardships of a soldier's life, without reaping any of its glory or more solid fruit. On returning to England, which he did a beggar, he turned his military experience to account by writing a play, "The Soldier's Fortune," which had a successful run; and any reader of it in the present day will be astonished that it should have done so. It is marked by a coarseness of language and of action which stamps the age that could accept such a piece for a picture of its manners as one of gross licentiousness. How a man of feeling and of genius, as Otway undoubtedly was, could produce such a piece amazes us. His excuse must be, that he was starving, and that he wrote for the age. And this is but a poor one for such trash.
In the play that followed " The Soldier's Fortune" Otway returned to tragedy, and to that vein of pathos in which his strength lay. This was " The Orphan," one of the two plays on which his fame rests for that mastery of pathos and tenderness in which he has never been surpassed, and only equalled by Shakspeare himself. There are some passages in "The Orphan" which rise to the highest point of passion, especially that in which Polydore, after his treachery to his brother and his discovery that Monimia has been secretly married to Castalio, bursts into the following " fine frenzy:"—
Then thus let's go together, Full of our guilt, distracted where to roam, Like the first wretched pair expell'd their Paradise. Let's find some place where adders nest in Winter, Loathsome and venemous : where poisons hang Like gums against the walls ; where witches meet By night and feed upon some pamper'd imp, Fat with the blood of babes : There we'll inhabit, And live up to the height of desperation;