Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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Sussex Poets.                                 235
Desire shall languish like a withering flower, And no distinction of the sex be thought of. Horrors shall fright me from those pleasing harms, And I'll no more be caught with beauty's charms, But when I'm dying take me in thy arms.
After an interval unworthily employed in giving a new shape to Shakspeare's "Romeo and Juliet," which was pro­duced under the classical form of " Caius Marius," Otway again asserted his native genius and produced the nearest approach to Shakspeare that the English, or, perhaps, any stage, has seen since the days of Elizabeth and James. This was the tragedy of "Venice Preserved," the chief characters of which have ever been selected by our greatest actors and actresses—>our Keans and Kembles, Siddons and O'Neils— as a vehicle for their histrionic powers. This was the highest and ripest fruit of Otway's genius. It was also the last. The life he led in London alternated between excess and starvation—and it is a tradition of literature that his death was owing to the latter. His means may be guessed at from the fact that he only received £1$ for the copyright, of "Venice Preserved!" He was in his 34th year, and in the full maturity of his powers: he had genius, experience, the ear of the public, and, if we may believe his dedications to the Duke and Duchess of York, &c, he enjoyed the favour of the Court. But all were thrown away in that reckless and riotous life which was the fashion of the second Charles's days. The closing catastrophe of the Sussex dramatist's career had now come. He was hiding—so runs the story— from his creditors at a public-house on Tower Hill, in a penniless condition, when, meeting a friend, who gave him a guinea, he hurried to buy a roll of bread, eating which with the voracity of a starving man, he was choked by the first mouthful. So perished, miserably and obscurely, a writer, who, according to Johnson, has caused more tears to be shed on the stage for his Belvidera and Monimia than even Shaks­peare has for Juliet and Desdemona, and who, in an age when bombast and obscenity divided the stage between them, went to Nature for his materials, and knew how to wring the
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